Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lotsa Medical Stuff

1. My ER is going to have social workers again. Woo-hoo! This is absolutely excellent news!

2. On the less positive side, last week I went to the eye doctor for a routine check-up (and new glasses, which turned out to be very pricy, but which I like a lot). The pressure in my left eye was slightly higher than in my right, although still within normal limits; since I have an uncle with glaucoma, my eye doctor decided to give me a special visual field test -- also pricy -- which showed some random desensitization. He was puzzled by this because it didn't fall into the conventional pattern for glaucoma or anything else, so he said they'd retest me when I picked up the new glasses.

That happened this morning. The doctor was busy when I finished the test, so his assistant said he'd call me to let me know the results. I assumed they'd be normal, but he called me this evening from his car to tell me that the same desensitizations showed up this time. They could just be from my severe near-sightedness, but given the family history and the slightly elevated pressure, he's worried about incipient glaucoma (or low-pressure glaucoma), so he wants me to have another test, called OCT, for optical coherence tomography. He has to refer me to a specialist for this, so he wanted me to check to see if the two people he's thinking of are on my plan (both of them are, luckily). I also have to call my insurance company to see if he can refer me directly, or if it all has to go through my primary-care doc.

The number he mentioned was "hundreds of thousands of dollars." At the time, I thought that was the price for the test; now I think (and hope!) that I misheard him, that he was telling me how much the equipment costs by way of explaining why he doesn't have it in his own office. He did say the test will fall under my major medical, not under my vision plan: good news indeed, since my vision plan has been deteriorating even more quickly than my vision.

He enthused at some length about the wonders of technology that allow us to catch glaucoma early, about how silly it would be to wait on this if we can head something off now, about what pretty pictures the OCT produces. All I could think, I'm afraid, was Yeah: for several hundred thousand dollars, it had better produce pretty pictures!

The thing is, I've had visual-field weirdnesses before. Last time, they told me it might be a brain tumor and sent me for a brain MRI. Everything was normal, and the weirdness went away. Ditto with the vague abdominal symptoms I've had for years: I've been poked, prodded, scoped and scanned six ways from Sunday, including exploratory surgery, and nothing's ever shown up.

I'm the queen of vague symptoms that turn out to mean nothing. I'm 99% positive that that's what's going to happen this time, too -- but since that 1% involves potential damage to my optic nerve, I don't want to take any risks.

So I really, really, really hope the "several hundred thousand" figure referred to the cost of the equipment, not the cost of the test!

3. My sister called this evening to say that my mom had been having trouble breathing and was on her way to the ER via ambulance (she'd called my sister, two floors down in the same house, on her cellphone to ask for help, so the cellphone's doing exactly what we wanted it to). Liz called again about an hour later, when she was in the ER herself, to say that Mom was feeling better, but that her blood pressure was very high (192/93) and that she had "very noisy" lungs; it sounded like Mom would probably be admitted, but the hospital had no beds, so she'd have to stay in the ER. And then Liz called a third time, just now, to say that Mom was doing yet better after breathing treatments, that her pressure was down somewhat although still high, and that she'd be getting chest x-rays and so forth. Liz left to go home and get some sleep; Mom wanted to try to sleep too, and if she's discharged, the hospital will call the house and my brother-in-law will pick her up. But it sounds like she'll be staying at least until morning.

Poor Mom. She's so sick of hospitals and doctors! Liz said she was in good spirits, though, all things considered.


  1. [purchasingagent]
    I just looked up the OCT equipment on my database, and yes, that is the stuff that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  2. I'm glad that there will be social workers in your ER again! That is definitely wonderful news. Glaucoma, that is not fun, I have experienced minor vision loss (I used to see colors and light much better), and can empathize with the fear that idea can bring. But I hope that they have caught whatever this is, if it is something that needs treatment, that it won't impact you much. And symptoms no one can figure out? Hmm, that sounds familiar.

    I will be praying for you and your Mom.

  3. The good news is that you have Gary there to talk about glaucoma—and his old doctor is still one of the best to learn from.

    That's about the limit of good news, though, so we'll just hope all goes well with the Medical portion (strange how eyes and teeth aren't medical until they become so, no?) and wish good luck to you and your mum.

  4. Yikes, I fail to visit your blog for two days and look what happens! Gosh, I hope for good news for you AND your mother.


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