Different Experiences for Two Men, Each With a Needle In His Eye

A needle in your eye is not a pleasant experience, trust me.  But when your choice is to dry the hemorrhage inside that eye caused by wet macular degeneration to save what little vision you’ve got, there’s really not much to think about.

Every three months Lisa drives me to my eye doctor, who happens to be a specialist in treating wet macular degeneration.  While I’m legally blind, I still can make out some shadows and fuzzy faces.  I like to get this appointment out of the way early.  First appointment is my preference.  I don’t want to spend the entire day thinking about that needle waiting for me.  I’d rather get it over with as soon as I can.

There’s another man who is on the same eye injection schedule I am.  I’ve seen him for several years in the eye doctor’s office when my appointments are scheduled.  We’re both there for the same thing.  The only difference is he’s always alone, and I’m not.

I have a ride with Lisa.  This man relies on public transportation for seniors.  He arrives early and waits outside the office for his ride to pick him up for who knows how long.  His vision is poor, so he walks slowly and off balance.  No arm to steady him.  No one to make sure his antibiotic eye drop prescription is filled.  My appointments were like that when I lived alone and my wife, Sylvia, lived in an assisted care facility for those with Alzheimer’s.  Only after I suffered my stroke in November 2011 and came to live with Bob and Lisa did I have someone to accompany me to my eye injection appointments.

It’s a lonely experience when you have a shot in your eye and you’re all by yourself.  No one to help you remember what to tell the nurse about any changes in your medications.  No one to ask the doctor whether the internal bleeding in your eye has spread or remained contained since your last visit.  Little things like that may not seem like a big deal, but they are, especially if you’re 100 years old.

I hear all this talk about the universal healthcare coverage law taking effect on New Year’s Day in 2014.  I don’t know what that will mean exactly, given there’s all sorts of opinions about what will happen.  All I know is the healthcare law doesn’t ensure you’ll have an advocate when you go to the doctor for anything, including an eye injection, unless you have a friend or family member willing to take the time to go with you.

Some people have to hire a healthcare advocate to accompany them to the doctor.  It’s better than going alone.  What’s even better is having someone knowledgeable drive you to your appointment and stay with you so you both know what’s going on.  It’s such a relief.

Someday SOUL SHERPA will have a foundation, named after Lisa’s late father, Peter, that will help people like me get to their eye injection appointments with an advocate who won’t charge them.  That’s a day I hope I live to see.  That’s the day when Lisa’s biggest dream and aspiration will come true.

There are a lot of people and businesses in the healthcare field today using the word “Sherpa,” but I wonder if they know the full meaning of the word.  Sherpas are guides, but they are also mindful of intent.  A Sherpa working without the intention to do good with others in mind is not a true Sherpa.  That includes putting your company’s profit ahead of the welfare of those you say you’re assisting like a Sherpa.

Lisa and I think a Sherpa without a soul really isn’t a Sherpa at all.  It will be interesting to see how these other Sherpa-named healthcare advocacy companies will develop over the long run.  It will also be interesting to see how SOUL SHERPA manages to grow by aiding all those it reasonably can on a sliding scale basis.

Prediction:  Coming soon:  The Peter A. Berry Soul Sherpa Foundation.  Without help like this, universal healthcare coverage will be incomplete.

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