Beachcombing

By: 
Gerrie Schipske

Publisher’s Note: As you read this I’ll be Washington, DC, to handle their public relations crisis. Meanwhile Beachcomber Historian Gerrie Schipske has agreed to keep an eye on things.

Would You Rather Have a Needle Stuck In Your Eye or…

I don’t drink very much so when I woke after New Year’s day and could not see out of my right eye, I knew it wasn’t because of the night before.

Oh, I’ve had mornings when my eyes need a good rub before I could focus, but this day was different. The fuzziness would not go away and I could see flashers and floaters as I tried to squint to see. Did I mention that I also could see blood when I looked into bright light?

Being a Registered Nurse Practitioner and a lecturer on medical negligence – in other words, a specialist on what could happen – I worried about the worst case scenario. I called my optometrist, Dr. DiCarlo, and asked for an appointment. He had checked my eyes last year and gave me a clean bill of health. I also called my primary care physician, Dr. Steven Harms (yes, Harms) and asked for an appointment.

Dr. DiCarlo did a retinal scan and confirmed my worst fears: I had a blood clot in the vein of my right eye that was putting pressure on the macula which was distorting my vision. The medical term is: central optic vein occlusion (COVC). Dr. Harms also made the same diagnosis and said “you need to get this taken care of right away.” In moments, I had an appointment to “see” a retinal specialist, Dr. Roberto Roizenblatt. Along the way, I checked out internet information on the problem and watched You Tube videos as I discovered that after more tests, I would most likely get an injection right into my eye of a medication that works to dissolve the clot and the blood.

For several of the nine years I served on the California Medical Board, I sat next to an eye specialist, Dr. Howard Krause, whom I immediately emailed and asked if he knew the man who would be sticking a needle in my eye. He did and reassured me that I “should follow his instructions.”

So after three hours of tests, the technician put drops to clean and numb my eye. I grilled the good doctor about risks and benefits of having an “antivegf” drug shot into my eye. He laid out the risks of stroke, heart attack, blindness, etc.

Even as an experienced healthcare practitioner and medical attorney who has read thousands of cases on risks and benefits, I hesitated to consent. After all, the drug being injected contains  “monoclonal antibodies” that work on the blood and the clot and help prevent blindness. The physician said firmly “I would never tell my patients not to have the injection because without it, you will go blind in that eye.”

So the technician cleaned and numbed my eye. Then Dr. Roizenblatt came in and fooled me by saying he “just needed to clean my eye some more” and then injected my eye. That hurt and my right eye vision went dark only to come back within a few minutes, still blurry.

It has been almost a week since the first injection and I can see a little better. Did I say “first injection”? Oh, that was the other piece of information I was given later in the appointment: you may need these once a month for a year.

The other disturbing news was the cost of the injection: at $4000.00. The physician said he used a “sample,” which was “free” but that I would need to apply to the pharmaceutical company to get on their “patient assistance program.” These programs are available from all pharmaceutical companies as a way to avoid price controls from the Federal government. All medication is provided for free and the drug company gets to write it off on their taxes. (Readers needing help with their medication costs should go on line to: https://www.pparx.org/prescription_assistance_programs/list_of_participating_programs)

I am grateful that I can see and that I have healthcare coverage from my employer, CSULB.  And, now when someone asks “would you rather have a needle stuck in your eye or …” I can honestly respond “it depends.”

 gerrie@beachcomber.news

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