We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My first Italian eye exam

Yesterday I experienced yet another "first"... an eye exam.  I have no idea why I believed this would be routine and ordinary. I should know better by now!

My first clue should have been that the appointment was in the same old hospital building where I got hopelessly lost in the basement.  I clearly remember that thrilling adventure!!!

I arrived at Giustinian, the old hospital building in Dorsoduro, on time, and found my way to the right location for my appointment, miraculously. This old place is enormous, and generally empty. Trying to find someone to ask directions is not even an option.  I searched all the signs for "Occulista", made my way to the second floor, and continued looking.  Relieved I appeared to be in the right location, I took a seat in a small waiting area along with 2 other Italians.

About 10 minutes later, a woman appeared in the waiting room and called my name, preceeded by "Signora".  I still have trouble responding to that, it always takes me a second or two, then I figure out .. Hey, they mean me!  I followed this nurse or whatever she was down the hall, and entered a dark room. Why does this always have to be so spooky in this building??  Also in the room was a woman in a white lab coat-it became apparent she is the eye doctor.  The doctoressa invited me to sit down behind one of those eye examination machines.  Before things got started, I apologized that I had forgotten to bring along my glasses.  The doctoressa proceeds to lash into me in rapid Italian which I roughly translated to be something along these lines " HOW CAN I CHECK YOUR GLASSES IF YOU DON'T BRING THEM!!!!!!  "  She is not happy with me one bit.

Ok, I apologized again, then asked if she could please just do an eye exam, as it's been 2 years since I've had them checked and I think I need the prescription adjusted. Yes, she can do that.  Whew.. I have made it through the first hurdle, all the while praying to God that there aren't any more to come.

The doctoressa uses this machine, into which I peer while she adjusts a few dials.  What I see on the other end is a hot air balloon out in a field. The whole thing starts out kind of fuzzy, but clears up as she adjusts a few dials.  Ok, she is finished, and motions for me to follow her.  We move to another office near by.

I sit in a chair, and she puts a pair of funny glass frames on my face. They were huge, with thick rims around the eyes, and thick armpieces. This was not  anything like the equipment I was used to my American eye doctor using. (Sidenote:  I love Dr. Blandina, my American eye doctor. And at this moment in time, I was really really missing her!)  Into the front of these "glasses" she slides some different lenses, and asks me to read the eye chart on the opposite wall.  I read with the right eye, then the left. She makes an adjustment on the left side lense, we try again, then she says "OK".

The doctoressa sits at a desk across from me and begins asking a few questions - what medications do I take , when did I come to Italy, where did I live in the United States , and why am I here.  These weren't needed for her forms, she was just curious. I'm used to this by now, so I humor her and answer her questions.  Every doctor and nurse I've seen so far has had the same curiosity.

Next, the doctoressa explains she is going to put drops in my eyes. I'm not sure I understood her correctly, she was speaking at warp speed, even though I had explained to her I need her to speak slowly. What I think I understood was she was going to dilate my eyes, so she could look or measure the retina. I wasn't going to argue her, I was along for the ride.  Yes, sure , whatever, give me the drops.  She puts the drops in my eyes, then tells me to go wait outside in the waiting area for 10-15 minutes.

When recalled into the examination room, I was told to sit at a different machine this time. The doctoressa started with the right eye. This intensely bright light beamed into my eye, so bright that it hurt, I could barely keep my eye open. Once again, the lovely doctoressa is screaming at me "KEEP YOUR EYE OPEN".  "LOOK LEFT" ,... "LOOK RIGHT"..."LOOK UP"... "LOOK DOWN".  She switched over to the left eye. I had even more trouble keeping the left eye open. She grew tired of trying to deal with me., turned off the machine, threw up her hands and said "It's too difficult".  She is clearly not happy with me once again. Yes, I got that. I prayed that she would not bring out a ruler and smack me, because I was feeling just like I had been a naughty child who was summoned to the principle's office. Why is it Italians make me feel this way whenever I make the slightest little goof????

She wrote out a prescription for my lenses, handed it to me, and told me to come back for another visit next year.  I mumbled a "Thank you" and left quietly.  I figured out how to get myself out of the maze of this building and out onto the street. My eyeballs hurt so much from whatever that last machine was!  I was thinking I probably would find some excuse not to return the following year, and I was saddened that I had not found a friendly eye doctor here to take the place of Dr. Blandina back in Baltimore.

Thankful that I had managed to maneuver yet another Italian first, I treated myself to a cup of tea in Campo Santa Margherita.  Yes, one more experience under my belt. But this was only part 1. Next I am going to have to deal with shopping for new glasses.  I can only imagine what kind of nightmare (lol, adventure) that will be.   Make that two cups of tea. I needed it.


Lynda Aurilio said...

Hi Karen, I decided to finally sign up and answer your blog, since we finally met a couple of weeks ago.
I hate going to the eye doctors. I rather go to the dentist. My eye doctor is great, but because glaucoma runs in my family, I need to go see him twice a year. I feel like I'm being tortured. (I also tell him that). The one time he started laughing because he said if I could see the look on my face. I've had every piece of equipment on my eyes and oh yes, those bright lights. Plus three or four different eye drops. I dread every time I have to go, but at least he's nice. LOL Ciao Lynda Aurilio

Yvonne said...

Uffa!! Those dilating drops .. how long did it take for your poor pupils to return to normal? And, we need to see your new, trendy, Italian frames, of course.

Rob C said...

So in Italy you get your eyes tested at the hospital? That's good, I get mine done there as I'm diabetic, but otherwise you just get them tested by the optician who also sells your glasses!

Now, for once I can help yo, for the best, locally made, specs in Venice go to www.otticavascellari.it they are near Rialto and are great, I have 3 pairs of their glasses and my wife has a pair of their sunnies too.


karen said...

Rob- thanks for this tip! I've been wondering where I will go find great glasses, now I know!

Michelle said...

Grazie, Karen,
After reading something on TripAdvisor I was thinking of getting new glasses in Venice when I come in 2012. A nice treat and souvenir.
It will be great to read your experience getting your glasses.

Rob C said...

Next time you're on the Vaporetto look at your neighbours glasses, if they are nice you might just see a little gold name on the side of the right arm!

If you go say Hi to Roberto from me!


patricia said...

Hi karen:
Happy to see this as I am an expat living in Bologna, trying to get a drivers vision exam that the Maryland Motor Vehicle dept will accept! yes I am from MD as well (Potomac)I went to the eye glasses place and saw an optometrist, but the exams are quite different..and
it was Greek to the MVA...don't even ask about getting a license here!! I don't need glasses, my eyes are fine, except to read!
wondering if there's an expat American eye doc here somewhere who could help?? anybody??
gotta love Venice huh? Patty

patricia said...

Hi Karen:

thanks for the blog: I am living in Italy as well, Bologna..dont need glasses (just to read) but need my MD driver's license renewal with a vision test this time, (I'm from Potomac but know balty well!) and the exams here don't fly at home..not sure what to do, any ideas anybody? know an expat American eye doc? thanks..Patty

hope you are enjoying IT otherwise!

karen said...

Patricia- is the MVA going to renew your drivers license while you are over here, or are you going back to the states for it? I tried to get them to renew it through the mail for me but they refused.

karen said...

Patricia- is the MVA going to renew your drivers license while you are over here, or are you going back to the states for it? I tried to get them to renew it through the mail for me but they refused.