Wednesday 27 November 2019

The eyes have it

I was over in England for a week in May 2017 to contribute to a rota of friends, neighbours and family who were able to help my aged mother apply drops to her cataract-scraped eye-balls. She was then 97 years old. I think that was my only visit in that calendar year. This year I've crossed the water at least four times (if things get often and irregular, it is hard to count), with out without the girls . . . It's predictable, or at least unsurprising, that the required care-and-attention increases exponentially as our parents age. It was, with 20/20 hindsight outrageous, culpable and cruel that the ophthalmic surgeon scraped my mother's eyeballs, knowing that her primary optical deficit was in/on the retina (macular degeneration) rather on the front (cloudy lens = cataract). The consequence was that it made it almost impossible for my mother to leave the house as the sunlight was positively painful after her treatment while wearing sunglasses against the glare closed off the dribble of peripheral light that allowed her to navigate.

On the September visit to England, I lost my driving glasses in the hospital car park. My twin sister (almost identical eye-balls) lent me her spare pair but it was time to get another pair on my own prescription. After much faffing, I finally got to see the family optician in Waterford this week. O was shocked, shocked, to be told that it is five years since I had my eyes tested. The testing has cranked up a technical notch in the intervening years. Not only can the optician take a picture of your retina [as R, old hat now] but can also carry out a quasi-MRI scan of the back of the retina to catch incipient macular degeneration. With my mother's history, they are a little more vigilant on the mac.degen axis. Unsurprised but vaguely relieved to hear that there is no evidence for any such degeneration in my eyes.

There must have been some post-austerity changes because, if you are up-to-date with social insurance, you can now claim a free eye-test and the glasses . . . both for reading and driving. They blagged me into getting 'anti-glare coating' on the driving glasses but even then The Gumment picks up the lion's share of that. So I came out of the opticians €32 lighter in the pocket but with two pairs of tailored-to-me functional spectacles on order. That's because I was happy to have the lens supported by 'national health' frames.  The choice was presented to me as a shoe-box full of different frames. Don't make me no difference, I whined, fashion accessories are wasted on me. But that wasn't quite true. I refused a pair with bold red ear-hooks "clash with my yellow phone" and a couple of golden-shiny frames as well. And I insisted that the frames be different in shape and colour so I don't try driving blind. The other reassuring information is that, while my prescription glasses are slightly asymmetrical, for general reading I am assured that +2.50 glasses at €2.99 from ALDI will continue to serve.

It took 80 minutes (!) to get through all my eye-business. Which was just enough time to ear-wig on another eye-punter's business transactions. This lady would clearly be mortified to be seen wearing government spectacles because she was allowing herself to be flattered around the up-market frames. Eventually she agreed to shell out €460 (!!) for a lens+frames bundle . . . and was havering about whether she'd sign for a <bargain alert> second pair at a 50% discount. It's like the outrageous difference between functional hearing-aids and commercial hearing-aids which I ranted about 3 years ago. This sort of economic system is clearly working for some entrepreneurs but I keep wondering if me might try From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs [Karl Marx (1875) Critique of the Gotha Program] for a while . . . just see how that might work, like.

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