My Driving Licence: An Update

As this seems to be the only thing on my mind at the moment, I thought I would update you with this week’s progress.

Yesterday, I posted the 10-page (5 pages, double sided) form back to the DVLA. This consisted of various medical information about myself, and also full details about my hospital consultant and family doctor.

One page was for me to give permission for the DVLA to approach the hospital consultant, and my own doctor. I had to give also permission for the DVLA to have access to my medical records if both doctors agreed. Just as well there is nothing too embarrasing on there!

Once this goes before their own ‘Driver’s Medical Committee’, the DVLA will then decide whether or not they want to send me for that threatened ‘Independent Eye Test’. One small encouraging paragraph stated, ‘This may not be necessary if your doctors are happy for you to continue to drive with your condition’.
(That condition is Glaucoma, by the way. Almost 500,000 people in the UK have that.)

Now I have to play the waiting game, which could take weeks.

This morning, I received an email reply from my Member of Parliament. This informed me that the DVLA would be sending me out paperwork to complete.

A bit late, but at least he tried…

The Eyes Have It

Apologies for not keeping up with your posts today, but I spent a long time at the eye clinic this morning. After two years of waiting, I finally received an appointment for the Glaucoma clinic in Norwich, and attended at 10:30 this morning.

There is no parking there, so it involves driving to Dereham and parking the car, then getting a bus for the forty minute journey into the city. The clinic is not attached to the main hospital, and is in a side street a short walk from the bus station.

On arrival, you check in and wait for your name to be called. Then a technician takes you in for a prolonged eye test. First without wearing your glasses, then with them on. You read out what you can see on the chart, but they don’t tell you if you succeeded in ‘passing’ the test. What follows is a ‘Visual Fields’ test. You have to stare into a machine, one eye at a time. Looking intently at a small bright orange light, you are given a small button to press every time you see a white light flash anywhere inside the screen.

After a while, you are imagining lights where none exist, and forgetting to click the button when you see an obvious one. This takes some time, and once again you have no idea of your success rate.

Then it is back to the waiting room, until you are called in by the Specialist Eye Nurse Practitioner. In that room, your internal eye pressure is taken, after anaesthetic drops have numbed your eyes so that you do not feel the device touching them. Once that is all over, you are allowed to ask how you are doing. My results were encouraging.

Eye Pressure. Good, and less than it was last time. The daily eye drops seem to be working.
Eye Test. Vision good with glasses, less so without. To be expected. No new glasses prescription required.
Visual Fields. In the ‘acceptable’ levels for my age, but far from perfect.

I asked about my cataracts, and was told that they are ‘minimal’ and do not currently require surgery. I was also told that I will not need another appointment for at least a year. Before leaving, I had a painless eye scan in a different room, with a different technician.

By the time I waited for the bus home and then drove back from Dereham, I had been gone for three and a half hours. Ollie was ready for his walk, and fortunately the sun shone, despite a cold breeze.

This evening, my eyes feel sore and tired where they were ‘prodded’. That is only because the anaesthetic had time to wear off of course. They should be fine tomorrow.

As hospital visits go, that was a good one. And it was free of charge, on the NHS.

I will catch up with everyone tomorrow.

A Hospital Visit

On Monday afternoon, I had an appointment at the eye clinic in Norwich.

I have Glaucoma, and the beginnings of cataracts, so I have been attending eye clinics since I still lived in London. To reduce the pressure in my eyes, I take a twice-daily eye drop of a beta-blocker medicine, called Timolol. I cannot do anything about the cataracts, and they will eventually require surgery.

I drove up to Dereham, and caught a bus into Norwich. The bus travel was free, as I have had a free bus pass since I was 62 years old. That is funded by the government from the National Insurance payments I made when I was working, and I can potentially go anywhere in the UK using it, with no charge at all.
(But only on a scheduled bus, not coaches or trains)

A short walk from the bus station to the clinic, and I was booked in and waiting with other people for the tests. The first one was a conventional eye test, with each eye covered in turn. Following that, I had a ‘Visual Fields’ test, where I had to use a ‘clicker’ to record various lights appearing on a screen in front of me. I then had to wait in a room, until I was called in for the next procedure.

This involves a localised liquid anesthetic, dropped into my eye, and another drug that dilates my pupils. After that takes, I have to sit with my head in a device, as a small brush is moved into contact with my eyeball, measuring the pressure inside as it touches it. I don’t enjoy this part, although it is not painful. And as usual today, the technician had to physically keep my eyelid open with his fingers, to get an accurate reading. That was followed by a painless photograph of the back of my eye, the results looking something like a photo of the planet Mars.

A quick chat followed, and after ninety minutes spent in the clinic, I was allowed to leave, until next year. The results will be sent to the ‘main man’, at the hospital. If he needs to follow-up, I will get a letter.

The point of this post is that all of this was ‘free’, including the bus travel both ways. ( 40 miles, round trip) My lifetime of contributing to National Insurance through my salaries had completely covered the cost, including the monthly eye drops. And even if I had been unable to work, and had never contributed, it would still be provided, free of charge.
This is the NHS, which with all it faults, is still a wonderful institution.

The next time my friends who live in countries without a good healthcare system are thinking about their health insurance costs, and the price of drugs in that country, maybe they should consider campaigning for something similar.

My Eyes, and poor Ollie

After my positive post about Ollie recently, he has suffered a relapse. Despite great progress at the start, his itches and rashes came back, and he is now in a sorry state indeed. Covered in small sores, and constantly worrying at himself, and scratching. It’s a sad sight to see, indeed. Tomorrow, I am back to the Vet, to collect a higher dose prescription of more of the same stuff.
At least he is still hungry, and eating well.

I had to go to the eye clinic in Norwich city centre today. I don’t get in there that often, so it tends to feel like being in ‘New York’, for a village person like me. The bus journey from Dereham was a joy though. Smart double-deckers, leather seats, tinted windows, free Wi-Fi, and LED information boards. There is also air-conditioning, and on a bus! The bonus is that it is free for me, with my Pensioners’ Travel Pass. The 20-mile journey takes just 40 minutes, and was bang on schedule.

Today, I had to go to the rather swish private eye clinic. This is funded by referrals from the NHS, and copes with the backlog of appointments that the main hospital is overwhelmed with. Right in the centre of the city, and a long way from the NNUH (hospital) on the outskirts, it is ideally situated, close to the bus station. I had a 14:20 appointment, so was seen almost immediately. It started with a basic eye test wearing my glasses, which I passed with flying colours. Then I had to see the technician, and have a selection of more tests, including the dreaded ‘brush in the eye’ pressure test, visual fields exam, and photos of my eyes. (Which look like satellite shots of the planet Mars.)

It was all good. No increase in pressure, no changes since the last appointment, and cataracts stable at the same level. The results will now be passed on to the ‘main man’ at the general hospital.
Let’s hope he is satisfied! 🙂

An Eye-Opening Experience

In praise of the NHS.

I had to attend for my annual eye clinic appointment today (Tuesday). They have moved the clinic from the main hospital in Norwich, to a specialist facility close to the city centre. I got a bus in, and arrived in good time. I have to go, as I have Glaucoma. This is a condition where the fluid in the eye builds up pressure, and can be a cause of blindness, if not treated. I use eye drop medication on a regular basis to suppress this pressure, so have to have an annual check, to make sure it is still under control.

When you are there, they also carry out a normal eye test, a visual fields check, and take photos of the inside of your eyes. It takes about an hour to have all three tests done, as well as the pressure test. That involves anaesthetic eye drops, so that a probe can be pushed against your eyeball, to measure the pressure. Then more drops widen your pupils, so that they can look inside with a magnifying lens, and an incredibly bright light. None of it is painful, but it is quite weird to have to be conscious, and watch something coming straight at your eyes like that.

When I arrived at the new clinic today, I was suitably impressed. Almost no queue, smart surroundings, and a very calm and soothing atmosphere. It was obviously a private facility, easy to tell that as soon as the receptionist welcomed you on arrival. The young lady who did the general test asked me to take home a customer satisfaction form, so I asked her if it was a private organisation. She told me that it was a privately-funded venture, directly employed by the Eye Department of Norwich Hospital. As their waiting list was so large now, and they do not have enough specialist doctors, they have decided to outsource these essential annual checks.

I moved on to see the optometrist. Not a doctor, but a Glaucoma specialist and diagnostic expert. He was very professional, and friendly too. Happy to chat about anything, and taking his time over the procedures. He discussed his findings at some length, and told me that he would be writing a report to the hospital consultant, appraising him of the results, and his own opinions. After just over an hour, I was finished and back out on the street, heading for the bus station.

For those of you who have asked me about this issue, and shown much appreciated concern, there was some good news. The optometrist advised me that a new prescription for my spectacles would alleviate most of my current symptoms. Although I have cataracts visible in both eyes, only the right one is big enough to be considered for surgery, and not just at the moment. The pressures were normal, and if anything, the left eye is still virtually 20-20, with only the right eye causing any concern. So, if I can avoid surgery, and improve my eyesight by buying new spectacles, then it is all good news.

It is worth noting that this was all 100% free of charge, covered by my years of paying a small amount into the NHS via National Insurance deducted from my salary. If for some reason I never paid into this, (as a full-time housewife, for example) it would still be free. Even the bus to and from the hospital was free, courtesy of my senior citizen bus pass. And although I will have to pay something for the new spectacles, the optician’s eye test will also be free, as I am a pensioner. The continuing need for eye drops will also cost me nothing, as I am over 60.

So, well done, the NHS. You are very good indeed, at least as far as I can see.

(Apologies for the shameless puns, in both the title, and the last line)

The process of ageing

Today it was time for my annual appointment at the eye clinic. I was diagnosed with glaucoma some years ago, and have to have my eyes checked as a result. Luckily, I have the disease in a mild form, and regular use of prescription eye drops makes sure that the internal pressure in my eyes remains low. I got the bus from Dereham, across to the main hospital just on the outskirts of Norwich. This takes a circuitous route through some nearby villages, and it was nice to see a different view of them, from the elevated position on the top deck of the double-decker bus. It was also the first use of my concessionary bus pass, which allows free travel on buses. (Once I had turned 62, in 2014.)

I was seen very quickly, considering how packed out the clinic was this afternoon. A standard eye test confirmed that my varifocal prescription is still current, so I could move on to the next step, being examined by the eye doctor. Shown to another very full waiting area, I was once again surprised to be called in after less than ten minutes. The pleasant lady doctor then arranged my head into the frame, before commencing the series of necessary tests. These can be unpleasant sometimes, but drops of local anaesthetic are inserted first, so it is more uncomfortable than painful. A device is rested against your open eyeball, to measure the pressure, This is far more accurate than the familiar puff of air used at the high street optician. I have to have my eyelid held open by the doctor during this procedure, as otherwise I will surely blink, and ruin the test.

Following this, a series of magnifying lenses are held in place on the eyeball, and intense lights shone though them. This enables the doctor to see the back of your eye, which she then compared with photos taken last year. Both results were encouraging. The pressure was stable, and there were no changes at the back of the eye either. This meant that I could forego further tests this afternoon, and have them next year instead. At the end of the consultation, I asked the doctor if she could tell me why I was finding it so difficult to drive at night. This aversion to driving in the dark around country lanes has always been there, but over the past six months, it has become a real issue. The oncoming lights are more dazzling than ever, and I find it difficult to make out junctions, once I have been almost disorientated by the lights of approaching cars. “That will be the cataract in your right eye,” she casually replied. “We could remove it with surgery, but best to wait until your left eye is as bad, and we will do them both around the same time.”

Hold the phone! Cataract? I know 63 is far from young, but I have always associated cataracts with people in their eighties. As well as that, my Mum had a bad situation following cataract surgery that left her almost blind, for the rest of her life. I expressed all this to the doctor. She added that I was about the ‘right age’ to detect the problem, and that both eyes will almost certainly have to be done, ‘before the age of 70.’ Going on to cheerfully inform me that, “all surgery carries risks, however minor the operation.” Up to that moment, I had been feeling pretty good. I thanked her for her honesty, and her careful treatment, and wandered out to the bus stop in the hospital grounds.

I spend a lot of time joking about getting old, but history has really caught up with me today.

Getting on a bit

I have been posting lately about having a skin complaint, and high cholesterol. I have been to the doctor’s more times this year, than in the previous five years. I also suffer from Glaucoma, and have been trying to get an appointment at the hospital all year, for routine eye checks. My reading glasses were changed for varifocals some years ago. I now find that I am wearing them for a lot more than reading. Looking at products in the supermarket, watching some TV programmes, or foreign films with subtitles, all becomes a lot clearer with the glasses on. I can no longer read anything, except maybe huge font headlines, unless I am wearing the glasses. This means that I always have to have them around, and make sure that I always have them when I go out. Although I don’t yet need them to drive, as my long distance vision if still good, I would need them to use the mobile phone, or read a menu in a restaurant.

Tonight, I cut (what is left of) my hair. I stopped going to the barber’s shop years ago, when it started taking him less than five minutes to clipper off what remained. I bought my own hair trimmers, and have done my own barbering, sheep-shearing style, ever since. Julie remarked that my hair was now ‘completely white’. There are traces of the brown visible when it is slightly longer, but cut down to a ‘number one’, it is as white as snow. This will also stop me ever considering the growing of a beard or moustache, as I would look like a crop-haired Santa Claus.

Last week, we went on a trip to have a look at Downham Market, another small town in Norfolk. During our wander around, Julie bought me a jar of locally produced morello cherry jam, my personal favourite toast topper. When I fancied trying it the other day, I was completely unable to free the lid. I donned rubber gloves, still no luck. I tried wrapping it in a cloth, but it wouldn’t budge. I took the jar through to Julie, and complained that I was unable to open it. She gave it a twist, and it opened with a pop. I stood humiliated, a grown man having to get his wife to open a jar. It was like being a child all over again. Except a child doesn’t care who opens their jam.

On Monday, there were things to put into the loft. I got the ladder in, and inspected the parcels, prepared by Julie the previous day. Nothing too arduous, I reasoned. Two suitcases, wrapped in plastic for storage. Two bags of clothes to go away until next winter, and some small boxes. By the time I had finished hauling them individually up the ladder, crawling around in the loft to place them, and tidying away afterwards, I felt whacked out, and ready for a coffee, and a sit down.

So, with all this medical stuff, failing eyesight, snowy hair, and diminishing strength, I have had to come to an unpleasant conclusion.

I have to admit that I am getting on a bit…