My Cataract Journey — and more apologies

My eyes have been opened! And not just to clear out the confusing cataract fog  that made this already deeply near-sighted old woman shall we say, short-sighted?

Or, another way of putting it: I have made my jaundiced views on the modern medical mafia known on this blog any number of times. Here’s a recent one, and it’s unusually appropriate here. Why? Because this time I end up with not one, but two apologies.

Covid Chronicles: The TWO DIFFERENT WORLDS of two of my friends. An apology.

Okay. Just to summarize what’s been going on with me since my mid-20s, when I almost died and came back to life CHANGED. Before I had been a good girl, brainwashed into whatever religion and mainstream culture wanted me to believe. Afterwards, I found myself out the outside, and have been riding a razor edge, ever since.

However, due to several personal experiences, I also modified/qualified my judgmental views of the modern medical mafia, allowing for two exceptions: orthopedics and emergency medicine.

Okay, I can now add a third. But this one is harder to explain, because it intersects with other prejudices that I still hold, by and large, but am finding myself opening, eyes opening, to some enlarged way of seeing and thinking that I have yet to grasp. Okay, here goes:

I had been told that I would need cataract surgery by an optometrist whom I visited late last year after three years with the same set of bifocal glasses. He emphasized that my cataracts had now developed to the point where I would really appreciate the surgery! Really? Hard to believe, of course, knowing me. This would be my very first surgery. Why start now after 78 years? But my younger brothers and sisters have all had this surgery, said it was no big deal, and they are so glad they did!

Okay. He recommended The Eye Center, a gigantic place here in town —

— because of both the quality of their physicians, and especially, their state-of-the-art technology. OK. The part about state of the art technology really intrigued me, since it brought up an inner contradiction — I am reflexively against anything AI, mechanical, transhumanist, NWO, algorithmic, etc. etc., even though, of course, I work on this computer every day, and enjoy both iphone and ipad. So . . . But, geez! We’re talking about my eyes here, tiny little physical organs with prime importance in negotiating life! Hmmm . . . I figured, they probably would benefit from not just “the human touch” of an excellent surgeon, but the extra precision offered by an instrument designed to do this job.

So, first appointment set, I walked into the waiting room of The Eye Center. And was immediately, after Covid rituals, faced with this! As I sat there in an assigned seat in that nearly empty waiting room, nostrils barely covered, I just had to surreptitiously whip out my phone. Yep, this!

All my prejudices — against materialism in general, and excessive materialism in particular, rose up as I sat there, furious and kind-of-masked, in the enormous Taj Mahal waiting room.

But then, something happened. And in fact, I could date it beginning when I walked in the door. For even then, I couldn’t help but notice the wonderful way people who worked there related to each other, and their cheerful, compassionate attitude as they scurried about in their various tasks.

This impression, of a wondrously connected, cooperative climate, grew and grew, to the point where, though I was still stunned, and pissed, by this massive medical machine I had entered, and its obvious compartmentalization of function, I couldn’t help but be curious, and receptive to its atmosphere that combined total efficiency with cheerful cooperation. Finally, as I was sitting in my third tech room to get eyes examined in all sorts of ways, I asked the young woman at the computer while we waited for yet another doc, “How do you account for the way this gigantic place feels? I’m so surprised that is not just a big mechanical operation, efficient, but detached; instead, feels welcoming, actually good! Kind! Connected!”

She said she had not been there long, but that she really likes working there, and thinks that maybe the atmosphere I noticed was set in motion by a number of women who have worked there for 20 years or more; that as a group, they set the tone for the place.

Wow. Interesting answer.

So, by the time I walked out of there that first day, though I was still somewhat anxious about my eyes, and how they would fare during cataract surgery, I was on my way towards an entirely new attitude, not only about this surgery, but about what’s humanly possible, even within large, compartmentalized institutions like this one.

Later, after it was all over — and I bet over that four day period I was cared for in various ways by at least 40 people, one after another, physicians, nurses and techs, all with specific tasks, not to mention all the specialized instruments — I mentioned my experience to neighbors who have lived here for a long time. Told them I had gone to The Eye Center for cataract surgery, and that I was pleasantly surprised at how great the place is, not just for the precise, efficient quality of work, but the subtle, but strong atmosphere of human caring and cooperation. The husband responded, “Oh yes, that’s Grossman’s place. He started it. He’s a local. He’s one of the good guys.” The wife went on to tell me that when their little girl (she’s now a grown up doctor) was born, her eyes didn’t move. Wondering if she was blind, they took her to see Dr. Grossman, then in private practice. He said he didn’t know, that it was too early to tell. But then, a few days later, she turned her head in the direction of a teddy bear. They figured it was because its brown button eyes looked like nipples. They went to see Grossman again, and he confirmed, “‘Yes, she can see!’ And you know what? He never charged us a dime.”

So maybe the tone of the Eye Center was set in the very beginning, and magnified by the group of women who have worked there for so many years.

Once again, I must apologize, this time twice. First for my excessive distaste for glaring materialism and how this time, it was a mere cover for a wondrous reality. And next, for assuming that scaling up would destroy the dynamic embrace of individualism and community. That’s the experiment we are doing here in Green Acres Permaculture Village, but I really did wonder if its possible to do at scale.

I talked with my podmate Annie about this, and she mentioned Mondragon. Oh yes, the place in Spain!

And yes, I’ve extended my list of what’s of value in modern medicine — from orthopedics, and emergency medicine, to eye surgery.

For anyone interested: the procedure I had is their Advanced Single-Vision Package, a “custom procedure utilizing laser and aberrometry for the best, most precise visual correction.” I could have opted for either near or far-sightedness, and chose the latter, since it’s about time to see the stars in the sky! I do wear reading glasses as I’m sitting here, typing. Cost: $1750 per eye, plus Co-Pay, Deductible, and Co-Insurance per eye. Cost me a total of $4100. Insurance did NOT cover. My insurance would have covered the basic surgery, done with a physician alone, with no fancy instrumentation, $300 per eye, which would have left me as before, very near-sighted. But as I said, I opted for machine precision this time, and glad I did.



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