Out of My Comfort Zone
A bell tinkled as I tripped over the threshold and into the office.
I liked Doc Pritchard on sight. He had big laugh lines around his eyes, and a shock of black unruly hair. The way he muttered to himself as he picked up my file and hunted for a pen in his cluttered examining room reminded me of an absent-minded professor. I finally realized which one—my high school biology teacher. He continued gathering the few things he needed to examine me: a small slender flashlight and eye drops, which he kept thumping against his hand.
“Darn lid is stuck.”
I hid a smile as I watched him.
Picking up the flashlight, he faced me. “Okay, ready, let’s take a look now.”
After a speedy exam, Doc Pritchard said, “Your Retinitis Pigmentosa looks pretty advanced. I don’t even need to dilate your eyes. How ‘bout that?”
“Yeah, how about that?” I tried to smile. But inwardly I tensed, wondering what was so obvious that he didn’t need drops to see.
He set the small flashlight aside, rolled his chair back and studied me. “I have no problem recommending you to Rita at the BBVS. She’ll fix you right up.”
He gave me a lopsided grin, and I almost expected him to hand me a sucker. Instead he handed me a phone number and curled my fingers around it.
“Rita is a caseworker at the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services.”
I grimaced. “Right.”
“You’ll like her. She’s very competent.”
I figured I’d like her. I just didn’t want to need her.
“Officially, we’ll have to sort out your field of vision.” He made a face and mumbled, “More fun paperwork.” I chuckled. Apparently, Doc Pritchard was not a fan of paperwork. “But for now, since you say you can’t hear worth a darn,” he said, smiling to lighten the complaint, “you need a hearing test. It’s possible you have Usher’s Syndrome, which goes along with RP.”
“There are a couple of types of Usher’s.” He rubbed his chin. “The first is predominately found in babies. There’s another kind that appears around adolescence. What I’m guessing you may have is a third, less common type they’re discovering which comes later in life.” He tapped the file folder with his pencil. “Like your vision loss, it’s progressive,” he added gently.
“So…I could become deaf, too?”
“Well…” Doc Pritchard bobbed his head back and forth, noncommittally. “First we need to get you to an Ear Nose and Throat specialist and test for it. No need to panic.”
“Of course,” I said quickly. “I’ve actually heard of Usher’s. I read about it when I was diagnosed eons ago.”
“Call Rita and we’ll get the exams set up, so you’ll have some answers, and maybe new hearing aids, by the time your classes come around.”
Hearing aids? I was only forty-eight years old.