Healthcare is expensive, more expensive for some, but less expensive for others. No clearer example of this was on display Monday at the eye hospital. This is a medical facility in West County that specializes in eye surgery. Because we had to wait so long before I was called, I got a clear insight into America’s disparity in healthcare costs. Going into this eye surgery, it was explained to me that there would be four bills per eye. The first I paid up front, a couple of weeks ago. That was for my new lens for the left eye. It was two grand. I’m on Medicare and a normal replacement lens is covered and is nominally free, but I wanted the best that I could get, which for me it is a toric lens. Unfortunately, Medicare views such an upgrade as cosmetic and won’t cover it at all. The second I paid on Monday to the hospital as my co-pay, which was $13.52. Sitting in the waiting room for hours, I couldn’t help but overhear what all the other old geezers were charged by the hospital. Universally, they were charge more. Most had to pay just a few hundred dollars, but one guy was charged a grand. I wonder why there was such a disparity in costs, since everyone had to be on Medicare too. I’ll still be charged by the anesthesiologist and my surgeon, but hopefully neither of these will be much. At least that is what the surgeon led me to believe during our pre-operative consult. Then we get to do this all over again for the other eye.
Yesterday, Anne and I had spent all morning at the hospital for the first of my two cataract surgeries. I don’t know how I do it, but I always manage to pick the slowest doctor in any group. We arrived early, but were served late, way late. I had finally just gotten up to complain, when my name was called to get started.
Two nurses prepped me, starting an IV and filling my left eye with drops and ointment until I couldn’t see any more, but just to be sure they taped it closed too. The anesthesiologist came by next all glad handing in demeanor, looked at my chart, said that I was in great health and that I was going to have a great day. My surgeon was next, he checked me out and said that we would start soon. I was already on my gurney and got wheeled straight into the operating room.
I was given a sedative to relax me, but not put me out. A plastic tarp was put over the top of my head and a hole cut in it for the left eye. A bright light was then shined in my face, so I couldn’t see anything anyway. I was conscious throughout the operation and was occasionally told to look at the light, look up, down, left or right. Sometimes I was told to look at the light, but I couldn’t even see it anymore. It was probably only fifteen minutes, even if it felt much longer. Afterwards, I still couldn’t see very well out of the left eye, but I was told that this is normal. Anne drove me home, we had lunch and then hit the couch.
Joanie called Anne around four, which woke me up. I stumbled into the bathroom, removed the eye patch and looked at the eye and also out of it. I have about a dozen eye drops to put in the eye every day. My vision was still pretty blurry, but better than right after surgery. I slept with the eye patch on, but when I awoke in the morning, I took it off to put more eye drops in the eye. My vision was noticeably improved.
They always only do one eye at a time, and the left eye was my worse eye, 20/400 versus 20/200 for the right. Today, we returned to the doctor for a post operative exam. Today, on the eye test, my left eye scored as 20/25 and it is likely to improve further over the next few days, as any lingering swelling dissipates and I get used to my new vision. Now my once worst eye is my best. This will last for about two weeks, until I get my other eye done. They took the left lens out of my glasses, but I found that too disorienting and have decided to dispense with them altogether. I will wear non-prescription glasses for now, to keep things, like especially my fingers out of my eye.
The doctor okayed me to drive, but Anne hasn’t quite yet. I have a letter on my license that indicates that I need to wear glasses while driving. I’ll probably go in and get retested at the DMV. In the meantime, I have a card from the doctor stipulating my new improved vision. For those who are concerned about me driving around without glasses, with my still unimproved right eye, I already have another letter on my license that covers that eventuality.