Tuesday, 16 March 2010

I spy with my little eye

In between taking Dr P to his diabetes doctor this morning, and ringing this afternoon to arrange an Aged Care Assessment Team referral for him, I hied me to the optometrist to get my eyes examined. The good news is that my right eye can still see well, despite the shortsightedness. And I do not have glaucoma. The bad news is that there are baby cataracts forming, and that the sight in my left eye is significantly worse. The other bad news is that, yes, I do need new glasses, and so Costalot Eyeshop is charging me a lot of money. It is a funny thing: the eye examination is billed to Medicare, but the frames, the glasses and the lens, after the rebate from the private health insurance still cost heaps.

It is a similar thing with hearing aids. Why, when computers, iPods, phones etcetera are now so relatively cheap, should glasses and hearing aids still cost such a huge amount? Presumably because there is a captive market. I am taking Dr P to an audiologist soon, and hope a new hearing aid will be more successful than the one he uses now. He cannot get one hearing aid into the ear, and his use of the other one is intermittent, at best. Which I find most aggravating, being no good at shouting loudly. Shouting loudly makes me feel very bad tempered.

Never mind, Dr P will pay for my new glasses. He has pots of dough, unlike me, and I am a very cheap form of labour. They say the labourer is worthy of the hire, and despite the Howard- Abbott attempts to deprive labourers of their rights, I still believe it. And I certainly labour.

Now comes yet another fascinating insight into the wonderful world of statistical analysis. I had glasses as a child, as my eyes do not focus together. I see separately out of each eye, instead of their forming the one image. I was an adult before I realised that this was so. It must have been a very obvious defect. My parents took me to an eye doctor, who prescribed glasses. He kept asking me could I see the end of my nose. I'd look through one eye, and could see the side of my nose, and then would use the other eye to see the other side. It never occurred to me that the real question was could I see the tip of my nose. No, I never could. Later I realised that the question asked might not be how the question was understood.

According to Antonello the eye person (I cannot remember his professional title) only 3 per cent of the population are afflicted with this particular defect, and of those only about 6 per cent have the bung eye throwing out to the left. I am just lucky, hey? If there is a family history of the condition, the chances of inheriting it are higher, but as far as I know, none of my descendants have it. That's good. This eye problem means that I focus very slowly and ineffectively. I have never seen a shooting star. When anyone shouts 'Oh look!' by the time I look, whatever it was has vanished. There is probably no end to the problems I could attribute to this eye defect.

When I was aged about seven I had eye surgery to tighten the muscle behind the eye. This could not change the way the brain chose to let me see, but the eye wandered far less, and the operation made a cosmetic improvement. In those days, you stayed in hospital a long time - possibly ten days, and all this time, my eyes were covered, so I spent the whole time in absolute darkness. This meant I called out to the nurses a lot for attention. It must have created a nuisance, but they were very patient. I remember coming out of the anaesthetic and that my eye was very painful. How I spent my time, I don't recall, but it must have been a dead bore, and I have always hated not having anything to do. I suppose I must have talked to the other children, but cannot remember whether my parents visited me. Visiting hours were not extensive, and small babies and toddlers were not permitted visitors, as 'It only upset them'.

This theory, as put into practice in those days, always struck me as appalling. When my sister Anne was born, the sixth child of the family, the fifth child, my brother Paul, was only two. He was put into a mother and baby care institution while Mum was in hospital, and NO ONE at all was allowed to visit him. When my mother and the new baby left hospital, they stayed at the same institution, which also provided post-hospital care for mothers and babies. Despite them all being there, she was not permitted to see her little boy. Nor was the rest of the family. When, about three weeks later (in those days there was none of this sending mother and baby home after a day or so, before the milk had a chance to come in) my brother was brought home, he was a child totally changed from the happy, charming, funny, loving and lovable little boy he had been. He was sad, withdrawn, did not recognise us, and unsmiling, and quiet. He is the only one of the family never to have married or to have children, and lives in a house he co-owns with a woman, and they have nothing in common. It is rather sad and lonely, I think. He suffered from the other family defect of scoliosis, and had surgery for that in his teens, necessitating 6 months in hospital in plaster with a steel rod in his back. Family was able to visit him only once a week.

I always remembered the effect that being removed from his family had on my brother, and resolved that I would never subject my children to that social and emotional deprivation. When I needed surgery when my son was little, I waited until he was old enough to cope without me for a few days. And I feel intensely that mothers and babies should not be separated when the babies are very young.

There is a very moving part in one of Margaret Drabble's earlier novels, The Millstone, which is about an unmarried mother. This was set in the days when unmarried motherhood was generally seen as disgraceful and scandalous. For the mother, of course, not the father. When her baby is born, she learns to love. Her baby needs surgery and when the mother goes to visit her baby after the operation, she is not allowed to see her. Hospital policy. She has to resort to hysterical weeping, as a result of which she is permitted to be with her baby. Only one other mother was allowed this privilege. I remember clearly the emotional impact of this part of the book, and my recognition of the experience. Things did change, and had indeed changed by the time this book was published in the mid 1960s. When my youngest sister was six months old she had emergency surgery on her bowel. By that stage little children were permitted visitors. But is it not strange and dreadful that such an institutional policy persisted for so many years?

Physical sight is one thing. Emotional and psychological sight is quite another.

Off to bed now. Last night I slept but little, fretting over the latest indications of Dr P's increasing feebleness. Hence getting around to requesting the ACAT assessment.

11 comments:

Elisabeth said...

Oh dear, Persiflage. I'm sorry to hear about your eyesight and even more sorry to hear about your brother. It's so sad. In the 1950s there were a couple of child therapists, called the Robertsons in England. They did a study on children in brief separation from the parents between the ages of around one and three years. They filmed the experience.

It is harrowing to watch footage of this research, small children devastated by the sudden disappearance of their parents, particularly their mothers. In those days people did not realise as much as we do today the significance of early attachment.

My heart bleeds for your brother.

saffronlie said...

I found the history of your eyesight quite fascinating, although I commiserate on the cost of glasses and hearing aids, etc. I am perplexed by the various ways in which government funding does and doesn't apply -- my younger sister, having had free hearing aids and audiology appointments ever since her first hearing loss was diagnosed, was cut off at age 21 as that is the policy. Seems a bit mean, since it's not as if she has stopped being hearing impaired.

Those are very sad stories about you and your brother being left alone in institutions. I am glad that practices have changed.

Zenom said...

I think the question: 'Can you see the tip of your nose?' is an inadequate diagnostic tool. Perhaps because I cannot either.
The cost of medical/health technology question, I think, needs to be promoted to some aussie Dept: may haps thedept of Health and Aging.
Sorry to hear about the cataracts, but you may as well put dr Ps pots of money to good and effective use (how (and who) else will you care for him, etc) and come for a visit, whilst consulting with and engaging these people: http://www.vistaeyes.com.au/types-of-procedures/non-laser-vision/restor-iol.html Your private health cover may well cover this and re-imburse Dr. Ps pots.

Those old Hospital policies smack of laziness or under resourcing or lack of care/understanding. Reading it made my stomach drop, what a disgusting practice. Administrators of those establishments should rightfully be ashamed. Disgusting, I say!
Thanks for putting off your surgery for me though. :)

Frances said...

Erum, (shuffles), excuse me for eavesdropping....Persiflage: I have read many of your posts, and enjoyed them.

My father was many years older than my mother, and I saw the sorely tested loyalty and love and frustration, anger and fear that was involved in her caring for him until his death. And witnessed the sense that these endless years that she gave to his increasing frailty were at the bitter cost of being the last that she felt she had of being vibrant and independent.
I heard her raise her voice at him, although we advised lowering her voice to the low register that the deaf can hear more readily.

Different topic: I have to strongly disagree with you about high heels.
How can you waltz, foxtrot or even rock and roll except on the balls of your feet?
High heels make me feel as if I am dancing.
The thought that they could be perceived as an attempt to look or be perceived as "sexy", is repellant.

Aged tho' I feel,my toes are straight, my ankles slim, my feet sound, and I hope to wear high heels, and walk and dance on the balls of my feet, when I am Dr P's age.

Isabelle said...

My brother (in 1951)also had an eye op and my parents weren't allowed to visit him. He was three. My mother sent him in a toy and the nurses gave it to him but didn't tell him where it came from. Unbelievable.

How very sad about your brother.

Relatively Retiring said...

What a sad tale.
The theory used to be that family visitors would 'upset' little children in hospital - and also in boarding schools. When left alone children would 'settle' and be less trouble.
The saddest part of all is that the adults using these techniques really thought they were doing it in the child's best interests

persiflage said...

I did not mean to give the impression that my eyesight is almost kaput. My good eye is fine, and the cataracts are in the early stages.
I think probably my parents did visit me. I cannot really remember, but I was at an age when I could understand what was happening to me, unlike all those unfortunate tiny babies and toddlers.
Hello Frances, and thanks for your comments. You are lucky to be able to wear high heels without discomfort or damage, but I still maintain that they are not good for the feet! And why do men not wear them?
Elisabeth, I tried to email you but it did not work. I am technologically challenged.

Elisabeth said...

Hi Persiflage, my email is 6thinline@gmail.com. It ought to reach me there.

Laura Jane said...

That is a tragic story about your brother, that three weeks of separation caused such harm. One wonders if there wasn't some intrinsic issue brewing already. So sad.

My sister was hospitalised in 1970 with rheumatic fever, when she was 7-ish. She spent 6 weeks in the childrens hospital and a further 2 weeks in a convalesent home and it pains and distresses her to talk about it now. She is the second of four (I am the eldest) and the youngest was about 6 months old, so it was pretty hard for Mum to get to hospital with short visiting hours, and we weren't all allowed to see her. I remember spending time playing in the outside grounds waiting for parents.

When my youngest was hospitalised for 6 weeks from birth, and at various times afterwards she was dedicated to my older child (3 years) and cared for him, often berating me for 'rejecting' him. It is a source of some hurt between us. Yet I understand that she suffered terribly from family separation during her hospitalisation.

When I did my child nursing in recent years I had a very distressing episode of caring for a child of 5 years in the same bed on the same ward as she was in, and he was suffering from family separation very badly. I had flashbacks to many distressing episodes of my life, and it was very confusing and salutary to be so vulnerable. It was very tough.

I hope the ACAT assessment brings some relief. Remember, when assessing, allow them to see the things that happen on the worst day. It is pointless putting on a front. Its hard, but necessary, in order to get the help you both need.

Thinking of you....

Meggie said...

There were certainly many 'crimes' against children and the way they were, and are, still treated. How very sad for your little brother.
I hope you get some help with Dr P. I also feel very bad tempered if Ihave to continually shout, and was so relieved when Gom got some hearing aids.

persiflage said...

Thanks, Laura, I will certainly take that advice.
The separation of children from parents, albeit well-meant, was alarmingly common, and the effects lingered long after the event.