Two years ago I was diagnosed with glaucoma. This eye disease is caused when the delicate mechanisms in the eye that drain excess ocular fluid malfunction. It is hereditary, my father had it, and his grandmother lost an eye to it. At first I responded beautifully to simply putting a drop of medicine in each eye at night, but soon that was not enough.(Interesting side note. Most medications have terrible potential side effects. The eye drops I've been taking have a side effect, too. They make ones eye lashes grow long and luxurious. Bonus!) By the time I was diagnosed, I'd already lost about 50% of the vision in my left eye, and if the doctor couldn't find a medication that would help, my vision would deteriorate even more. I've been seeing my eye doctor on a very, very, regular basis for the past 24 months. He's a good guy, and not hard to look at, but really, it was too much.
After a while I developed an allergy to two of the medications that were working, causing my eye to swell and itch like fury. My good doctor finally decided to pack me off to a specialist in Portland, and I went in March, in the early days of the Covid-19 crisis. The specialist agreed I needed surgery, the sooner the better, but said they were probably suspending surgeries due to Covid. He went on to explain that there were two available techniques; a Trabeulectomy, where a tiny trap door is cut into the sclera to relieve pressure, or a new procedure, called Xen, where a wee stent is placed in the eye. Since I know more than one person who has had poor results with the Trabuelectomy, I was pretty excited by his glowing description of the newer surgery. I mean, not that any surgery is exciting, but this one seemed promising. After he got me all on board to sign up for having holes poked in my eyes, he looked at my file and said, "Oh, I'm sorry, your insurance wont cover the Xen." I was terribly disappointed. "We will call you when we can operate," he said, and sauntered out of the room.
Last week I received a call from his office, "We are doing some of the more urgent cases this month and would like to schedule you," nice Nicki said. "And I have good news, in the months since we've seen you, your insurance will now cover the preferred procedure." I was delighted. We set a date for my worst, (left) eye to be operated on.
Things got a little complicated after that. Because Rachel and I had to close our business for a month when the governor mandated a shut down, we have been working many 6 day weeks, and most of those include 10 + hour days. We have just been beginning to get caught up with our regular customers, but our dance card is very full. The surgery was planned for Friday, 5/29, so we had to re-arrange an entire day of customers. We opted to work on the Memorial Day holiday, and moved all the folks up to Monday. Then on Tuesday I got another call from Nicki at the eye care center. "I hate to tell you this, but the insurance won't cover the Xen surgery unless you have a failed Trabulectomy first." I am not the sort of woman who cries often, but I burst into frustrated tears. I called the insurance company and after being transferred about 10 times finally talked to a woman who suggested that my doctor call their doctor for a "peer to peer," review. Nicki called me back the next day. "We have a whole team working on this for you," she said. "The doctor has called the company, our insurance specialist has called. We are all pulling for you, but we may have to postpone the date." Insert more frustration here. I wasn't holding out a lot of hope that the bureaucracy of a big insurance company was going to help out the little guy. In this case, me. I asked if I should assume that Friday was off, thinking we'd plan to groom that day after all, working through some of our long wait list. "Not yet," she said. Wednesday she called back, "Ready for some good news? We have it under control. Sort of. We think.But we are doing your surgery Friday." Miracles happen.
Friday morning I was wide awake at 4:00 AM. I baked a double batch of cookies to take to the staff at the office, and Rachel was here bright and early to escort me on the two hour trip to Portland. Once there I was whisked inside, and taken immediately to surgery. That's when I met a fabulously nice, nurturing nurse who put me at ease and got me ready for the next step, which was meeting Joe. Turns out he is the anesthesiologist. He tried to start an IV in my left hand. I know from experience that the veins there are not terribly cooperative, but he gave it a good effort, muttering as he failed a few times. I suggested he try the larger veins inside my elbow, and he did, with quick success. Next he explained what I could expect as events progressed. I was to be taken to the operating room where a team would be assembled. They would cover me with a heated blanket, and have a "time out" where they all gathered to go over who I was, and what the procedure would be. Then Joe was going to give me a sedative and after that he was GOING TO STICK A NEEDLE IN MY EYE. Now, like many people I am a little squeamish about eyes. They are soft and squishy and vulnerable and ... important. I'm also not a big fan of needles, truth be told. So the news of what he had planned should have horrified me, but not the way Joe told it. He made it sound like a jolly idea. I was all on board. This was gonna be great.
Things went along as described, warm blanket, skilled team, and Joe. As soon as I was relaxed and saw the glint of large needle coming my way, I had to quip, "So, Joe... " everyone froze. "I hope your are better at this than you were starting that IV." The room dissolved in laughter. Joe rose to the occasion. I never felt a thing. 15 minutes later I was walked to recovery.
This morning we were back in Portland to have my eye checked. The doctor said my cookies were delicious. My eye pressure, which had been in the dangerous 20's, is a low 6. He said everything looks great and he will call surgery a success. I did a little happy dance right in his office. I'm sure it was a sight to behold.
A celebration was in order. We went out to a favorite spot for baskets of excellent fried clams and sat right on the water on a perfect spring day to enjoy them.