Spotlight on ‘Doc Pritchard’
Low Vision Specialist Magnifying Hope
The months of July and August are dedicated to local people who make a difference in the lives of the vision impaired people in my community.
Doc Pritchard is the name I’ve given the ophthalmologist in Mobility Matters who magnifies hope for me. It’s not what he says, it’s how he responds.
I spoke to him again yesterday when tracking down some papers for my file, and I felt his optimism all over again through the phone lines. We talked about how my eyes had worsened since I’d seen him last.
“Your one eye doesn’t do diddly if I remember correctly but your good eye…relatively speaking, it’s not that bad.”
His words were unremarkable–not even doctorish. Instead, it was the warm tone in the voice of one who had seen worse that gave substance to his words.
He mentioned a few low vision specialists I could visit and he paused. “The thing is, stay on top of your condition, keep searching. There’s so much that can be done now. Magnification and what all.”
He didn’t mention RP is doing its first genetic stem cell work.
He didn’t mention a cure in our lifetime.
But the way he spoke brought waves of gentle sunshine to me. I envisioned his smile, the way he sat forward in his chair listening to my concerns, then leaned back and gave me his take on it.
It had been at least four years since I’d seen him and yet he quickly brought a smile to my face. One day I hope to interview him in person for this column. But today I’ll share the Doc Pritchard who peddled hope along with all the low vision mechanisms to his patients.
A bell tinkled as I tripped over the threshold and into the office.
I liked Doc Pritchard on sight.
His had big laugh lines around his eyes, and a shock of black unruly hair. They way he muttered to himself as 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, Dr. 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 slip of paper with a phone number.
“Rita is a caseworker at the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services.”
I grimaced. “Right.”
“You’ll like her. She’s great.”
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 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 ENT 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.”
“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’m only forty-eight years old. But if they help me hear my students, it’ll be worth it.
“Like I said. Rita will get the ball rolling. Things will get better. Let me know what you find out.”
I left Doc Pritchard’s office with a springier step than when I entered.
You have just read, “Friday Friends: Spotlight on the Good Ophthalmologist,” by Amy L. Bovaird. Copyright July 10, 2015.
Who outside of your family do you turn to when you need the voice of hope? How do they give it to you?