I went to the eye doctor this morning for my annual check up. I didn’t go to my usual doctor, but to a doctor at the diabetes clinic. I decided to go there since I always end up waiting for at least an hour in my regular doctor’s office. And since I didn’t feel like I had anything to worry about having had no signs of diabetic retinopathy before, I didn’t feel like wasting half my day.
The doctor was in his early 40’s, tall, thin with a long ponytail. Not at all like my regular doctor. He greeted me, asked me a few questions and told me to sit down in front of the contraption used to look inside my head.
I put my chin in the chinrest and the doctor peered into my eyes, shining a bright light. He looked around for what seemed to be a long time. It felt uncomfortable, almost painful.
After shining the light into both of my eyes, he examined them one at a time. I really wanted to close my eye. I kept blinking trying to keep it open; looking in the direction the doctor had instructed me to. Then he moved to the other side again shining the light.
“You have the start of diabetic damage in your eyes,” he said to me as he got up from his chair behind the machine. There was no gentleness about it, no cushioning the blow.
“Really?” I replied (like an idiot). I was stunned by the news, and totally unprepared for it.
“How long have you had diabetes?” the doctor asked.
“A little over 10 years,” I said.
“Hmm,” he said shaking his head in a knowing way as if I was on schedule for diabetic retinopathy.
“You should come more often, every six months,” he said.
“Okay,” I said as I got my stuff and headed towards the door.
As I walked out of the office and down the corridor I felt the pressure in my chest building. I felt like I wanted to cry. I had the feeling of unfairness, the kind my children have when they feel wronged. Diabetic retinopathy, me? I work so hard. I do everything right, well at least I try… My A1c is good.
I’ll go to my regular doctor for a second opinion. Just 14 months ago he told me things were great and gave me a clean bill of eye health. Maybe this doctor is wrong. Hopefully.
The decision to get another opinion didn’t make me feel any better. I walked home, a short 10-minute walk, with my pupils dilated, not seeing very clearly, kind of in a daze.
When I got home Jess asked me how it was. “Not the best,” I said.
“Why? What happened?”
“The doctor said he can see signs of diabetes damage in my eyes, the beginning of diabetic retinopathy”
“That doesn’t make sense,” she said. “Last year the doctor said everything was great. You should get a second opinion. Go to your regular doctor.”
I imagine I will get a second opinion. Maybe I’ll go to a retina specialist. But I have a feeling it won’t change much. I mean, what are the chances a doctor would see retinopathy that wasn’t there? Diabetes isn’t fair.