Dr Jordan said, “First, I’d just like to test the pressure of your eye. Please tip your head back, and I’ll just place some numbing drops in your eye, like so…” I leaned my head back against the chair and he raised a bottled, squeezed it, and liquid dropped into my right eye, and then into my left eye. I blinked furiously and the solution streamed down my cheeks.
He handed me a tissue. “Go ahead and wipe your eyes if you like and then look straight ahead at the chart on the wall. Please hold very still, and try to breathe normally,” he said.
He walked closer to me and seemed to press an object to the surface of my eyes. I held my breath and then remembered I was supposed to breathe. I filled my lunges and made them pump air in and out until I heard, “Good. Eye pressure looks normal.”
He stepped away and leaned over his desk, typing.
“Okay, next…” he said, rolling his stool in front of me. “Stare straight ahead for me and tell me, how many fingers am I holding up?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dr. Jordan raise his left arm and extend his hand with two fingers outstretched, the rest in his fist.
“Two,” I said.
Then Dr. Jordan used his opposite hand, extending all five fingers.
“Five,” I said.
The game continued as Dr. Jordan stretched his arms above him, below him, side to side, all the time asking me to name how many fingers he held up. Once he was satisfied by my performance, he said, “Peripheral vision looks good. Let’s move on.”
Dr. Jordan then handed me what looked like a set of black plastic 3-D glasses - but these had a handle, rather than temples to rest them on my face, and while one side had a perfect hole cut out, large enough for one eye to peek through, the opposite side was a sheer plastic surface.
“Let’s start with your right eye,” he said. My stomach to dropped as he flipped the glasses so my right eye filled the hole in the square frames. “Hold that up to your eye, and tell me what you can see in the chart – you can leave your glasses on,” he said. He reached for a remote resting on his desk as I placed the glasses against my face.
As I lifted the glasses to my face, 12-inch screen blinked from the table at the far end of the room. I knew to expect rows of letters, starting larger and shrinking with each new row – after all I had visited optometrists nearly once a year for half my life. But instead of neat black letters on a white background, I saw the familiar grey circle in my vision.
I took a deep breath, reminding myself that I could see the letter forms in my peripheral vision, albeit more wobbly than usual. So even if my center vision seemed impossibly changed, I still had that. Perhaps it would be enough. And so what if I failed this test? Maybe the doctor could still give me a perfectly reasonable explanation for what I was experiencing. Right?
“Okay,” I said. “So, I still see the cloud in the center, but if I focus on my peripheral vision, I can see the letters, I think.”
“Just tell me whatever you can see,” he said.
“E,” I said. “Then I see another, but I’m not sure if it’s the next – V, maybe? Then X. Then D on the edge.”
“Okay,” he said.
“If I focus really hard, it’s like a number emerges out of a fog, but I can’t really see the context around it to know if I’m even in the right row,” I said.
“Focus really hard,” he said. “Let’s do another row.”
“Okay, T, not sure, then maybe… W? Then, uh, P, and A,” I said.
“Let’s try this instead,” he said. He reached toward me, and I lowered the glasses from my face as he pressed a tab on the glasses. Immediately the view changed – where there had been a circular hole, now the surface had changed to black plastic poked a hundred tiny holes. I held it up to my right eye. Looking through it felt like looking down a dark corridor with the digital chart hanging on the wall at its end.
“Does that help at all?” he said.
“R, Q - I think – then I can’t really tell the next one, then P, S. That’s a bit easier for me,” I said.
“One more,” he said.
“K, V, D,” I said.
“Alright,” he said, and he turned back to his computer to record his notes.
“That was a bit harder than usual,” I said, trying to chuckle, but knowing I’d earned my first ever F on an eye exam.
To be continued…
This post is part of my “Through A Mirror Dimly” series about a health issue I’ve been experiencing. I’m telling this story through the season of Lent as a way to make sense of the ways that my own suffering teaches me about the suffering of Jesus Christ.
I also invite you to engage with your own suffering through this series: how does your personal pain illuminate the suffering of Jesus for you? And what can your pain teach you about the life of faith?
If you have any thoughts to add, comment below!