Last fall, I began treatments for venous retinal occlusion – a broken vein bleeding into the retina. Not knowing any ophthalmologists in my area, I accepted the urgent referral from a local optometrist. What followed over the next eight months were a series of very painful injections into the eye and one equally painful laser treatment.
While I noticed some progress to my vision, I was less than impressed with the ophthalmologist’s bedside manner and the office’s lack of efficiency. Each visit lasted at least 2 hours and one ghastly appointment continued for over 3 hours where I was the last patient in the office and when my husband asked the receptionist where I was, she went back to look for me and never returned! The owner of the practice – not the doctor treating me – brought me into an exam room one time thinking I was someone else. It wasn’t until he called me by another name that I realized his incompetent mistake.
Finally, I contacted another ophthalmologist for a second opinion. Walking into the office, I felt the difference. The other doctor’s office felt like a factory with the waiting rooms (yes there are more than one) full with patients shuffled from one conveyor belt to another. While the waiting room was large, there are never more than a few people waiting at a time. While I’ve only been to the new doctor twice, I’ve been treated warmly and never waited more than 10 minutes, even when arriving 15 minutes early.
The major difference is the doctor-patient communication. Whereas the first ophthalmologist ignored my concerns, my new ophthalmologist and retinal specialist (referred by my new ophthalmologist) heard my concerns, talked more clearly about the treatment process, and quickly eased my mind. The final clincher for my trust in my new optical team occurred when they explained why I felt so much pain after the injection. Apparently, the antiseptic betadine aggravates the dry tenderness. Rewetting drops help remove the antiseptic and cools the irritation. While not completely pain-free, rinsing my eye after the treatment and using drops throughout the day helped tremendously. The nurse said she always advises patients to use drops after injections for the very reason that betadine can irritate. I wasn’t a wimp after all! That little piece of information made the world of difference to my psyche. This health team actually cared about how I felt post-treatment. What a concept!
Before switching doctors, I had accepted my fate of being partially blind in one eye. The first ophthalmologist did nothing wrong professionally though my appointments took twice as long as the appointments at the new doctor’s office. I researched the process for the treatment and substantiated it with a second opinion. The difference is trust. I forgot to take my own advise to keep looking if I don’t trust a referred health professional. I know there are no guarantees any physician can save my vision. I also know that the treatment process will continue to hurt though, thankfully, not as acutely.
Now my voice is heard. I’m confident my vision team will satisfactorily answer any of my questions or concerns. And that is what we must strive for when managing medical treatments for chronic illness.