Article Date: 6/1/2011

Splintered Intentions
Patient's Perspective

Splintered Intentions

A DIY project goes bad, leading to some new insights into the optometrist's services.

By Andy Gallo, as told to Erin Murphy, Contributing Editor

THE LAST TIME MY WIFE went on a business trip, I took a day off. After the kids went off to school with homework and lunch money, I began to tackle the to-do list she had left for me. (Whatever makes her happy!) Install new dryer vent, check. Weed the vegetable garden, check. Replace the rotted board on the deck … not quite.

As I pulled up on the end of the board to loosen it, it suddenly snapped. In a split second, I had a splinter in my eye. I thought my regular glasses would protect me like safety glasses or goggles, but they didn't.

In the bathroom mirror, I could see a small splinter embedded right below the surface of the colored part of my eye. I tried repeatedly to slide it out with the pad of my finger with no luck. My eye was irritated, red and watering quite a bit. I flushed it with water, but the splinter didn't budge and my eye felt worse. After about 20 minutes of working at it, I realized I was going to need some help.

Past experiences with the ER involved endless paperwork and waiting, so I called my eye doctor. His receptionist told me to come straight over. She took me to the exam room right away, sat me down and told me that the doctor would be right with me. Waiting in the exam room, I finally had time to worry. Would this permanently affect my vision? Could a rotten splinter cause an infection?

When the doctor came in, he immediately examined my eye and asked what had happened. He removed the splinter quickly and easily, and asked about the pain. My eye was killing me, but it felt about 50% better once the splinter was out. He put some drops in my eye and looked at it under a light. The splinter had scratched the surface of my eye. The doctor gave me ointment and drops to take home and he scheduled a follow-up visit a few days out.

The whole visit to the doctor was a relief for three reasons:

1) When I was a little panicked at home, the receptionist handled everything quickly and efficiently. She knew what she was doing, which was great because I didn't.
2) The doctor addressed my problem quickly. He told me that he sees foreign objects and corneal abrasions all of the time, which helped me feel like it was no big deal. He also said the wound would heal, and it wouldn't affect my vision or become infected.
3) I was dreading getting scolded about safety goggles, but it never happened. When I was ready to go, the doctor said, “You know, Andy, if you don't like to wear safety goggles over your glasses, we can get you prescription safety glasses. The frames are only about $50, plus the cost of the lenses, and we can have them ready when you come back. If you only use them once in a while, you'll probably never have to buy another pair.” I took him up on the offer.

My eye healed very well. I've told several friends about the incident. Like me, a lot of them didn't know that eye doctors see people in the office for problems such as my splinter or that prescription safety glasses are pretty cheap and easy to get. As a bonus, my wife was so worried that when she got home, she took over with the kids and told me I needed to “go rest my eye.” (Whatever makes her happy!) nOD

Editor's note: Periodically, new OD will explore eye care from the patient's perspective.
Whether you have a special interest in contact lenses, low vision or pediatric care, you'll find out from real patients what attracts them to a practice and keeps them coming back.

Optometric Management, Issue: June 2011