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The eye gets the full treatment

Eye glasses on eyesight test chart.

Eye glasses on eyesight test chart.  

A senior citizen’s experience with a package deal at the eye hospital

The two sure indicators that you have become a senior citizen are often high blood pressure (HBP) and cataract. The first one could come calling any time earlier – my 45-year-old neighbour, his 21-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter all have it, thanks to marital, work-related and academic stress, respectively. They buy medicines in bulk and at family discount rates.

Having studied in government schools and colleges and worked as a teacher in a government college, I never had any academic or work-related stress. My 40 years of marital life has been stress-free too, since I totally surrendered to my better half early enough in life.

So it was my cataract condition that forewarned me of my senior citizen status. I went to a major eye hospital to check my eyesight as I found it difficult to read the small characters in TV news.

My wife and I reached the hospital early, paid the registration and testing fees and joined a queue of patients. Young women in crisp uniforms were flitting around different cubicles, each sporting some instrument.

Soon my turn came. After I failed to decipher the third line of the eye chart projected on a panel, my eyes were examined from all angles (except from behind) and inside with various instruments. After about an hour of prodding, I was finally ushered into a doctor’s room. He said with a grim face: “You have developed cataract in the left eye, which needs to be operated upon immediately.”

He then directed me to meet the administrator for details. The administrator, a lady who looked like a bouncer or a recovery agent of a credit card company, was munching her mid-morning snacks. I gathered some courage and showed her my file. She looked me up and down as if measuring what I am worth, glanced at the file and said, “Your operation can be done day after tomorrow. Which package do you want to choose?” I was puzzled and was wondering if I was going on a holiday.

When I inquired what the packages were, she replied: “We have packages from ₹25,000 to ₹50,000 for Indian lenses, and from ₹40,000 to ₹75,000 for imported ones, depending on whether you want to wear glasses or not after the surgery.” Being a swadeshi at heart, I wanted to opt for the Indian lens but my unpatriotic wife insisted that I take the imported package of ₹45,000. So my Made in India eyes succumbed to made abroad (probably in China) lenses.

The bouncer came up with the next bombshell: “You have to pay the full fee tomorrow in cash, and there will be no receipt.” I asked meekly, “Don’t you accept card or cheque?” She gave me such a look that I knew there were no other options. There go Digital India and the GST regime for a toss.

Tests and medicines

She then handed me a slip and said, “Get these blood and urine tests done in the laboratory opposite the hospital and bring these medicines when you come for the operation. Don’t forget to pay the fees tomorrow.” The file was swept into the cabinet by her side.

Faithfully following the instructions, I walked into the hospital on D-Day and handed over the test reports. After an affirmative signal, I was taken to a pre-operative ward to join other patients. After three hours, when my eyes were flooded with drops every 20 minutes, I was asked to wear a gown, laid on a stretcher and wheeled into the operation theatre. As I was moving in, another patient was just being wheeled out.

I glanced around and found a doctor operating on another patient along with an assistant. Both sported face masks, gloves and gowns. I could hear light music in the background.

Soon my turn came and I was moved beneath a large light. The assistant pulled a sheet over part of my face, covering the left eye, and started cleaning my right eye. Fortunately, I was awake and said, “The cataract is in my left eye.” The doctor, wearing a mask, responded: “Wait. Let me check the case sheet.” He checked and directed the assistant to clean the left eye.

Next he inserted a needle into my eye, and from there I had a psychedelic experience of seeing light and darkness alternately. Within ten minutes the procedure was over, my eye was bandaged and I was wheeled out. After a few minutes in the ward again I was discharged. My grandson looked at me and said I looked like Mad Eye Moody in his Harry Potter story.

The next day the bandage was removed in the hospital and I felt relieved to get back my eyesight. As I came out of the doctor’s chamber, I saw another senior citizen coming out of the bouncer’s..er administrator’s room.

I grinned at him and wished him luck.

teeswami@gmail.com

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 12:36:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-eye-gets-the-full-treatment/article23937117.ece

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