Sunday, February 19, 2012

Being an Invisible Patient

On Tuesday I had an appointment with an eye doctor.  It was a follow-up appointment from a routine eye exam in December that found some blood in my eye.  The appointment was almost five hours long and ended with laser surgery and me leaving wear an eye patch.

Too bad it was not Talk Like a Pirate Day.

At one point in the exam, a technician put a yellow dye IV in my arm and took digital photos of my yellowed eyeball.  She had another technician with her.  The second tech was in training.  The two of them were looking at the array of eyeball photos on a large monitor.  In one of them they found the problem and were delighted.  They pointed at the problem and said how interesting it was and the direction of blood vessels and other fascinating details.

I was sitting five feet away.  By the way, I rode 20 miles before the appointment and was wearing spandex bike clothes.

Then they started discussing what would cause the problem they saw.  In their diagnosis protocol, the usual cause for the symptoms they saw was high blood pressure or diabetes.

One said, "He must be out of shape.  Look at that.  Probably high blood pressure."

My rest pulse is 58.  My blood pressure is 120 over 70.  I do not have diabetes.  But they were excited by the images on the screen.  So I had to have high blood pressure and/or diabetes, even if I didn't.

At this point I interrupted and said I didn't have high blood pressure or diabetes and that I am not in bad shape for my age.  Maybe something else could cause my problem?

Then they asked if I felt I had low energy lately or was feeling lethargic.  So I told them I ran five miles and did 75 pushups with my sons the previous evening.  I went to the gym for 45 minutes that morning and rode 20 miles to the appointment.

They decided I was not lethargic.

Later the doctor came in, said they were going to correct the problem in the left eye that day and the right eye two months later.  Sometimes they never find a cause.  He ordered blood tests to rule out infections.

I understand that people with complex jobs have to rely on protocols to interpret the vast amounts of data they deal with.  But it still is a strange experience to be discussed like a piece of meat.  Or an eyeball!