Some six weeks have passed since Akhtar started using the contact lens prescribed by the Hopkins optometrist. Did it do the trick? Does the story have a happy ending?
Yesterday Akhtar and I made our way to the Wilmer Eye Clinic for the fifth or sixth time. I was hopeful because I had kept in touch with Akhtar and understood that the second lens was an improvement over the first. Maybe the irritable and impatient doctor would pronounce the ordeal a success and we could move on. In the car, I asked Akhtar one more time, “New contact lens ok? Can you see ok?” Akhtar nodded yes.
We arrived and took our place in a mostly empty waiting room only to see it fill up and then empty again twice before Akhtar’s name was called. The wait was about an hour, and several of the patients called by our doctor had arrived after us.
Eventually the doctor appeared, frazzled as usual, and led us to the exam room where she began asking Akhtar questions. She did not acknowledge me or indicate that she even was aware I was present.
When I commented that it was quite difficult to get the prescription filled, she turned and looked at me for the first time.
“Yeah, frankly, I am surprised you did.”she said. “Nobody takes Medicaid for this kind of thing.”
I replied that I paid for the lens. She stopped what she was doing and looked at me a second time. “You paid and they took your money?”
Shaking her head in disbelief, she then redirected her attention to Akhtar.
To my surprise Akhtar communicated with some effort that he was still seeing double in the bad eye. She immediately exclaimed, “Well if that is the case, the lens is a failure. There is nothing more than I can do and you can give me back the contact lens. It is not working. You do not need to come back! We are finished!”
“Wait a minute!” I almost shouted from my place in the corner. “He told me it was a great improvement. At least, could you test the eye?”
She scowled, calmed down, and then proceeded to go through the routine of testing his eyesight. This time she did not use the services of a Farsi translator and seemed to understand what Akhtar was saying better than I did. As the various letters appeared on the screen in diminishing sizes, it was apparent that Akhtar could make out most of them.
After about 15 minutes she smiled for the first time and announced that his vision was 20-15 in the good eye and 20-40 in the bad eye, just as she had predicted at the last visit. She then went to work putting various lenses over Akhtar’s bad eye to see if a minor adjustment could reduce the double vision, which seemed to help somewhat. She wrote out a prescription for another lens, which would help with the double vision, and was preparing to leave the room when Akhtar announced –also to my surprise–that he wanted to be a truck driver. He asked if the new contact lens would allow him to qualify for a commercial driver’s permit. To her credit she figured out what he was trying to say when I had no clue. She left that task to me to see if eyesight of 20-40 would suffice in Maryland for a commercial license. That is now on my to-do list.
When I asked if we needed to come back to see her again, she shrugged her shoulders and then left the room in a huff.
I doubt that we will ever see her again.
So I think the story ending has to go down as a happy one. The miracle of Western medicine came to the rescue again. It will take awhile to get and try out the new lens, so the jury is out until then. But for now the prospects look good.
What is less gratifying is the experience with this practitioner. I found myself asking what is her problem. Her manner and demeanor remain a mystery, but in the end Akhtar got what he needed, and for that I am grateful.
But for Akhtar and his family, the drama and the struggle continue. There will probably be more refugee stories. Stay tuned.