First Impressions (Learning to see 2)

It started at about lunch time, initially I thought the squiggly line I was seeing was a loose hanging eyebrow or perhaps an eyelash caught in my eye/line of sight. When Sarah got home from work, we confirmed this was not the case.  In any case, I’d not been able to do much ahead of then because I’d an unavoidable meeting to attend on Zoom and also I was dependent on Sarah for the car if I did need to go to the hospital.

We agreed that it was best not to leave things as this was sustained and sufficiently different from little floaters I’d experienced in the past.  Our nearest hospital has an eye casualty, so Sarah dropped me off there at about 6:55pm.  When I got into the building, a friendly member of staff pointed me to the reception explaining that actually the eye casualty closed at 7pm but there was still time to be seen.

As the receptionist started taking my details, a member of nursing staff appeared over her shoulder and demanded (with demand being the operative word) to know why I was there and then why I had not come sooner. They were reluctant for me to be booked in as they closed at 7pm. Couldn’t I come back in the morning? 

There was a complete lack of understanding that there are reasons why you might not rush straight to the hospital as soon as you see something iffy in your vision. These include that you might be stuck at work or that you wouldn’t want to race straight to casualty to be told you were wasting people’s time over nothing (and that’s the impression I got of how I would have been met).  She didn’t consider the possibility that for many people, they have that one slot in the evening but will need to be at work the next day and they may not all have understanding bosses when it comes to absence at short notice.

When I said “Oh I’m sure it is nothing but I have cornea grafts and I was hoping someone could do a quick check), she snapped back “That’s a different part of the eye and it isn’t a quick check, we will have to get someone to dilate your pupils and then you will have to wait whilst we find a doctor.”

Most concerning of all, she demonstrated no insight whatsoever into the anxiety someone might be facing. They may present as calm, they may say “oh I’m sure it is nothing.” When they say that, it’s because they are hoping that a medic will reassure then that it probably isn’t anything to worry about but that they will still take a look.   The message I got was that I was somewhere between an inconvenience and a very bad person for darkening their doorstep, admittedly close to the end of admissions but still within the allocated time.

Contrast that with the nurse who did a quick vision and pressure check before applying the drops to dilate my pupils, friendly, conversational, carefully taking notes. Compare that with the doctor who saw me shortly afterwards. When I apologised for keeping her late, she was quick to reassure me that no, it was not an inconvenience and that she was on duty, seeing people and not being kept back. She carefully checked both eyes and then she explained what the problem was, that there was nothing to worry about and the warning signs to look out for if something worse developed.

Learning to see is about seeing why someone is there, on your doorstep asking for help. It is about choosing not to see them as an inconvenience. This is important because in church life, you will constantly have people showing up, probably not at the most convenient time.  Stop and think, how do you see them. Then consider, how do you think they see you?

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