Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Eye yai yai

About eleven, maybe twelve, years ago, I went to see an opthamologist for some problem I was having with my eye/s (I don't remember what it was). All I remember from that visit was that he put this stuff in my eyes that hurt like hell, and then used this machine to hold them open so he could look at them, and I practically freaked out I hated it so much, and he was very condescending to me, and then he said "you have a slight astigmatism in your left eye. There's no point in doing anything about it now, but in about ten years you'll probably need glasses."

Jump ahead about 9 years. I'm applying for my driver's license in Israel, and I go to have my eyes examined. I look into the little machine, read off the first two lines, I've passed, I go home. No problem.

Fast forward to a few months ago. I've dragged my heels completing the Israeli driver's license procedure, and by the time I get around to taking and passing the driver's test, it's been more than a year since my eye exam. The exam has expired, so I have to take it again. I go back to the same place, read off the first two lines, I've passed, I go home.

But this time there is a problem. Because though the Ministry of Transportation only cares about the first two lines, I could see all the lines that come after that. And this time, I was shocked at how blurry those next lines were from my left eye.

I went around for a while, every so often testing myself, squinting at street signs far away with one eye, then the other, and thinking "yup, definitely not doing well on the left." But I did nothing, because I'm lazy and vain and cheap, and those things together don't go well when one must get a prescription for one's first pair of glasses.

Last week, I went with an opthamologist and an optometrist to an Absorption Center, where they tested new Ethiopian immigrants' eyesight and gave medical referrals to those who need further attention. It's part of a study to see how the "system" can be changed to bridge the gap between Israel's excellent doctors and the Ethiopian immigrants, who don't know how to take advantage of the medical care available to them. They might, for example, struggle with learning Hebrew and take for granted that they are too old to learn a new language, when the real problem is that they can't see the letters properly - and they just take for granted that that's how it is, and never complain.

Anyhow, they had this nifty machine that can test someone's eyesight without them having to talk. They don't have to identify colors or letters or what direction something is facing -- which would be impossible for new immigrants who speak neither Hebrew nor English. I saw that each exam took less than a minute, so when all the immigrants were done, I asked if they could test me too.

I put my chin in the face-rest, looked into the machine, and 2 seconds later both the optometrist and the opthamologist were like "whoa! check out that left eye! You don't wear corrective lenses? Did you know you have a problem? You really need to see your doctor."

Well, so, today I overcame my laziness and my vanity and my miserliness and saw my doctor, who told me I don't even need a referral to an optometrist. So . . . it looks like next week I'm going to have my eyes checked again, and this time, I'm putting in an order for new eyewear . . . A couple of friends will come with me, to make sure I don't choose something that will make me look like a freak.

Part of me acknowledges that my friends with glasses have very cool styles and colors, and that the glasses, if chosen wisely, can be very attractive indeed. But . . . I hate to admit that I'm upset about it. Upset that those ten years flew by so fast, upset that now I'll have another expense and a new thing to have to worry and think about (not scratching them, not losing them, not crushing them . . . ), and, frankly, upset because my eyes are one of the only features I have that I really like, and I don't want to cover them up. I'm trying to remind myself that the right glasses could accentuate the good features while drawing attention away from the bad . . . but . . . well, this is a new thing for me.

Yes, yes, there are contact lenses . . . but there is no way in hell that I am sticking something in my eyes! No way! OK, bli neder, but no way!

A friend recommended I look into laser eye surgery, and my first reaction was there is no way in hell I'm letting someone burn a laser at my eye! No freakin' way! Bli neder, but no way.

So, that's that with that. More updates to come, I'm sure.

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