Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Year's Eve ~ More Medical Mishaps

New Year's Eve Medical Mishaps
A routine followup appointment to the ophthalmologist on New Year's Eve turned into a nightmare. Seems I have the knack for experiencing medical problems during the holidays. In 2012 it was the Christmas Crash when a urinary tract infection turned bad. This time it should have a been a simple look at my eye to verify all is well.

Floaters and Tears
It all started early in December when I awakened to a new set of floaters in my left eye. You know... those little blotches and hair-like ghosts that float around in your vision? Those are the result of the eye's vitreous fluid breaking up as we age and are said to be more prevalent in those of us with poor far vision (I'm raising my hand).

Floaters are annoying enough, but these were particularly dark and big. Added to the floaters I already had, made the situation that much more bothersome. Going about my day, I soon noticed something new in my left eye—flashes of light at the left edge. The light appeared as a perfectly rounded sliver like a new moon. Googling what I experienced turned up more frightening issues. The floaters and flashes could be the sign of a retinal tear or detachment—a situation that could lead to blindness if not looked after immediately. Yikes!

I called my optometrist who told me to go to an ophthalmologist right away. Okay... now I'm freaking out inside. So off I went to the Kaiser clinic.

During the exam, the doctor placed a microscope-like instrument on the surface of my eye to see more detail. Ugh! A very uncomfortable process, which left gel all over my eye making it very difficult to see. Plus my eyes were dilated. Good thing my husband drove me. I could not see to drive after that.

Good news. I had no retinal tear or detachment, but there were signs of minor hemorrhaging at two locations. Could be a result of tugging on the retina which happens when floaters break loose. Nothing serious, but the doctor wanted me to stay alert for symptoms of light flashes and any dark areas of my vision. If that happens again, promptly get to the doctor. If a tear or detachment is found, they would repair it without delay.

Ooops! Medical Mishap #1
New Year's Eve at the end of the day was my followup appointment with the eye doctor. It started off badly when the assistant who prepped me for the exam forgot I had contacts in and dropped yellow dye in my eyes then performed a pressure test.

"Was I supposed to have my contacts out for that test?" I asked.

His eyes got big. "Oh no! I forgot you had contacts on!" Great! Those lenses will be going in the trash.

When he went to add the drops to dilate my left eye (no need to look at the right eye), I held my finger up to my eye to emphasize Drop the chemical into this eye.

The doctor used that same uncomfortable microscope to look closely. It involved some stressful pushing. I put myself into a zen mode, focussing at a spot on the wall to keep composed.

What a relief when he was done. Everything looked good. Cleaned up my contacts as best I could and home I went. On the ride home I told my husband my eye hurt. Once home I removed my lenses and put on my rarely worn eye glasses. I felt stabbing pain in my eye with accompanying tears. Blinking brought me to more tears. Something was not right.

I thought there must be an abrasion on my cornea and I needed to power through—it would heal. The cornea heals very quickly—usually overnight.

We were going to friends for a New Year's Eve gathering and rather than stay home and be miserable, I would be better off with friends enjoying myself than staying home with the pain.

I managed to make it through the evening. Never imagined I'd win the most rounds of Crimes Against Humanity (the offensive and disgusting version of Apples to Apples). I don't care to play that game again. However, the game seemed strangely fitting as I endured horrible pain with drippy nose and eye while viewing the evening's events through the distortion of thick eye glasses. I don't drink alcohol, but it all seemed surreal.

Discovered Mishap #2
Waking on New Year's Day to a swollen shut eye and still much pain, we endured and pressed through the medical system gauntlet (you need to see a general practitioner first to get a referral to a specialist baloney) to eventually talk to the on-call ophthalmologist who agreed to see me. We set an appointment for the evening so my husband could watch the Rose Bowl with his dad.

Meanwhile piercing pain persisted. A close look at my pained eye revealed what I thought to be a blister. Almost. It turned out to be a scrapped cornea with a piece of cornea heaped up to one side (like a flap of skin on a cut). Eww! The on-call ophthalmologist determined the pile of corneal material caused the pain and hampered healing.

After numbing the eye, the doctor used a q-tip to scour the material from the cornea. Eeeeyeow! More zen concentration required. Then she measured the exposed scrape at 1.6mm x 2.4mm. Sheesh! No wonder I was in pain. I felt like the lion when the mouse removed the thorn from his paw. Ahhhh! Relief at last.

Lessons Learned
So, my dear readers, what should you learn from this misfortunate mishap? Three things:
  • Doctors are not superhuman—they make mistakes so be prepared to question everything.
  • Don't let the system push you around—you know you need a specialist. Make your case to get to one without seeing the GP first.
  • Insist on that extra step—it may mean the difference between a nightmare problem and getting well. I would have avoided 26 hours of hellacious pain had I insisted the doctor take a look at my eye after his exam. The on-call doctor divulged that 1 out of 20 patients experience an abrasion on their eye from an exam. Really? Those are terrible odds. Shouldn't there be a policy to make sure all is well before you release the patient?
Bottom Line
Do you even need to question the importance of taking responsibility for your health? Create optimum wellness to help you stay away from doctors as much as possible. Despite rarely seeing a doctor, I've had too many appointments turn bad. Question everything and learn about the test or procedure being done. It's your body and you will reap the results—good or bad.

I’m mending okay now, but still have some minor irritation, redness and swelling in my eye (not pretty). I should be 100% soon.

Do you have a story about a doctor causing harm by mistake or negligence? Tell us about it in the comments.


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