The most interesting and pointless eye exam ever

The future is here, and it’s not what we were hoping for. Strap in for a tale of discovery in the annals of cultural decline!

My medication can harm color vision, so I need to get my eyes checked every year. My insurance only covers eye exams every other year. But they said in the off years, I could get an eye health exam that doesn’t result in a prescription. That sounds good in theory, except no eye doctor that takes my insurance—and there are very few—seems to understand how to bill that. So in practice, I have to pay for an eye exam every other year as a small part of my “disability tax” (the extra cost of life when you’re disabled).

I also need new glasses this year since mine are looking like an old cutting board, so I was in search of a cheaper eye doctor to give me a prescription and do the required eye tests for my medication. We do have an eye doctor in Fort Mill that we love, but I’ve been trying to save money so I was looking for something cheaper (she doesn’t take my insurance at all).

Brad’s aunt and cousin told us about Stanton Optical, which has very low cost eye exams. I called them up, and they said that for patients with a Medicaid card, they would only charge $25 for an eye exam. How could you go wrong with $25 for an eye exam, I thought? Well, I just had no idea!

First we pull up and there are no accessible spots available because every one of them is filled with someone running into Chipotle or Wing Stop to pick up food. There is also a loose dog in the parking lot just running around ignoring its owner. So Brad parked farther out, I unloaded my wheelchair, and I swerved through the gauntlet of chaotic action to get inside.

They had me check in on a tablet, but the program was only for the perfectly dextrous. There was no delete key on the virtual keyboard, so every time you mistyped something, you had to keep on typing and then type elsewhere to explain your error in typing! It was very annoying! My fingers were in the mood to stress-test the system without my consent, so I mistyped my phone number, my address, and even some medication names. I’m not sure any human was involved in the construction or monitoring of this process!

The manager then directed me to the technician, who did those standard tests of your startle response—or, rather, your eye pressure and so on. The manager took my glasses to check the current prescription. I reminded him I had prisms in my lenses so he’d be sure to check those, too.

The manager and tech were extremely nice. My service dog Felix was able to be on my lap for the three machines (I know one of them does eye pressure, and the other two look similar but maybe they’re for transdimensional communication or generating Taylor Swift songs—who knows?). Felix was great! He just hung out on my lap and didn’t get in the way at all.

[Okay, I know at this point you’re thinking “Why is this story so long?” or “Should I order the burger or the salad?”. But this is an experience we’re sharing together, and the payoff in knowledge will be worth it. Probably. Back to what happened.]

Then the tech showed me back into the exam room. They very nicely had rolled the exam chair out of the way so my wheelchair could just roll right up into place for the big machine with lenses in it. She got me all adjusted and then said “OK, your doctor will log on in a few minutes!”.

I was like what? Log on? She explained that this was a virtual appointment, that the doctor would control the lenses through her computer and do the exam virtually. I’m up to try anything once if it doesn’t violate my marriage vows or any of the better laws, so I figured we’d see how it went.

The doctor came on and the first thing she said is that she saw I had prisms on my lenses. She asked did I still want prisms? I said of course! She said that since she was virtual, she didn’t have the equipment to measure prisms. She said that I could ask the person who measured my current glasses what my prisms were and just use that for my prescription. I was a bit confused, but went along with it because I’m a sucker for trusting that things will make sense eventually.

Felix was so good during the exam! He just chilled out in my lap the whole time. He was probably expecting a virtual eye doctor and would’ve been surprised at an embodied one.

The eye exam was super short, just the usual “which is better, 1 or 2?” and “read this line” sort of things. But there was no checking my pupils, bright lights, or anything having to do with color vision like I know I need. She had receded into the interwebs before I could ask about these things. So I figured since I’d obviously told them my medications, maybe that was something the tech was going to do.

So I go back out and talk with the tech and the manager, and I asked about the color vision test. They said they didn’t have the ability to do that there. Then the manager saw the printout of my prescription and noticed there wasn’t a prism on there. I told him what the doctor said. He was shocked they couldn’t assess prisms!

He said that his assessment of the prisms in my lenses wasn’t reliable and that I should NOT get glasses based on this prescription that they did, because it wouldn’t be accurate. He said I needed to go to a “real optometrist” to get that done. I felt like saying “I thought I WAS seeing a real optometrist!” but instead I said “So, I’m confused, what was the point of this eye exam, then?”.

He said there was no point to it, and that he wouldn’t charge me for it. But he did encourage me to go see another eye doctor soon because the pressures in my eyes were a bit high (18 and 20) and I need to be dilated to have my eyes checked further.

So basically it was a waste of an outing! I guess a $25 eye exam really is too good to be true for someone with complicated eyeballs like mine!

I think on Monday I’m just going to call the eye doctor in Fort Mill that I know does a good job and make an appointment with her. I need a competent eye doctor, what with my extremely high prescription, prisms, high eye pressure, and color testing. At least I found a place online that sells really cool glasses, and hopefully they’ll be cheaper than the place in Fort Mill where we usually go. And hopefully they’ll still be able to make high quality lenses!

At least I had a memorable experience. I learned that Felix can handle an eye exam very well…oh, and that capitalistic pressures somehow don’t always benefit the consumer!

Leave a Reply