With headaches so painful I felt like I would puke, an optometrist appointment was reluctantly made.
Reluctantly because my last appointment three years ago left me feeling devalued and depleted, and took all of my inner strength not to burst into tears.
This feeling had nothing to do with the condition of my eyes, but, rather, the ill-prepared, unenlightened way the optometrist communicated with me and my jerky, constantly moving, speech impaired body.
After that disastrous appointment, I wrote an letter to the optometrist and hand delivered it to the office. Even though I requested that the letter be placed in my file for next time, in preparation for this latest appointment I printed a copy to give to the next optometrist.
I was somewhat hesitant to hand the letter to the new-to-me optometrist because I didn’t want to assume he was as unenlightened as the previous doctor. I then realized the exam would have more of a chance of going smoothly if I gave him a fair chance to succeed. I handed him the letter.
October 19, 2012
After my eye exam on Monday, October 15th, I left the office feeling devalued and depleted. I am hoping by sharing the following information, the next exam will go smoother for both of us.
As you might know, I have athetoid cerebral palsy. For me, this means I lack muscle control and coordination. My physical movements are jerky and involuntary; one body part or another is in constant motion. My speech is also significantly impaired, yet can be understood by individuals who take the time to listen.
However, my hearing, understanding and cognition are not affected. There is no need to speak loudly, to repeat yourself or to use simple vocabulary for me to comprehend.
Next time I will grab my iPad from my scooter basket before my scooter is moved out of the way so that I have a more effective means of communication at hand.
My head control is tenuous at times. When conducting the eye pressure test and other such tests during which my head must remain still in a certain position, it might be helpful to have someone hold my head steady.
My eyes closing when something is approaching is a strong, uncontrollable reflex. Repeatedly stating that I need to open my eyes for the eye drops is not productive. Perhaps another method can be found to achieve the same result.
Please keep this letter in my file so that it will be handy for my next appointment.
Perhaps in that time you could consult with colleagues and other optometrists for further suggestions on how to best serve patients with cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders.
Working together will ensure successful care for my vision.
Glenda Watson Hyatt
The optometrist read the letter, thanked me for the information and proceeded with examining my eyes. He was extremely patient when my head twitched like a bobblehead that had just downed a few cups of espresso.
However, perhaps “…my hearing, understanding and cognition are not affected” was not written clearly enough in the letter as he made a great effort to gesture while he was talking. He went as far as to write “2012” on a small Post-It note when he asked if my last glasses were in 2012.
In Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, the third agreement is: "Don’t make assumptions."
Don’t assume that I do not hear or do not understand because my speech is unclear or because I may communicate in another manner.
Making that assumption really does say more about you than it says about me. And, honestly, it does not portray you in your best light.
Asking me, ”Can you hear and understand me okay? Is there anything else I need to do when communicating with you?” would portray you in a much more enlightened light.
On the bright side, this optometrist would make a fantastic partner while playing Charades.
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