COVID Chronicles: Facing my fears alone


Some young adults are ready to fly from the nest before they even hit 18.

Me…not so much.

I’m still dependent on my parents for a lot of things, and one of the biggest is my doctor’s appointments. I spend a lot of time at various medical practices, and I have HUGE white coat syndrome. That’s layman’s terms for “utterly and completely terrified of medical professionals and procedures.”

So you’ll sense my anxiety skyrocketing when I find out that because of the pandemic, I had to attend my yearly eye checkup alone.

The check-in goes smoothly. Me sitting and waiting and bouncing my leg also goes smoothly. Then the nurse calls me back for the Absolute Worst Possible Part of having eyeballs.

For those of you who have healthy eyes and 20/20 vision, count your blessings. You’ve never had to put your face into a contraption that lines up with your pupil and then shoots air straight into it.

And we’ve established how I feel about these things already.

I’m a seasoned vet with this procedure, but it’s just a tad too invasive for my tastes. I can’t control my own reflex of flinching, and the test often takes multiple tries per eyeball.

It’s a difficult time all around.

A lot of sorries directed at my nurse.

Finally, she leads me into the exam room and I get to strut my stuff. Hey Dr. Wetherhold! Yup, college is good. Yup, still studying in Vermont. Yup, sure is pretty up there. No, haven’t tried skiing yet. Don’t plan to. All of my doctors ask this exact string of questions.

The eye exam is fine.

My eyeballs? Declining in quality at the average rate. Dr. Wetherhold suggests I have less screen time. In this pandemic? I joke. It’s not lost on him; he has a son my age.

He flips through my file, and I think the appointment is over and I’ll be free to go graze the selection of frames for my new glasses like an anxious horse in a wide open pasture.

But fate was not on my side that day.

“We’ve gotta do one more thing before you go,” Dr. Wetherhold says to me.

I don’t like the sound of that.

“Your air puff test results were abnormal, so I have to check the pressure of your eyes manually.”


Is now a bad time to say I wish my mom was here?

Let me explain what applanation tonometry is. First, Dr. Wetherhold says, “I know you don’t like this, so I’m sorry,” and unceremoniously yanks my head back, pulls my eyes wide open, and generously plops multiple drops of some mystery liquid in my eyes.

It stings.

Then my eyes go numb.

It’s a weird feeling, eyeball anesthetic. You still see the same, it’s just that suddenly it seems like there’s cold, lifeless marbles sitting in your eye sockets. It is disorienting and downright miserable for someone who does not like strange sensations. I do not recommend it.

Then, Dr. Wetherhold guides my chin to a wacky, never-seen-before contraption (why do all eye exam tools look like this?) and says he is going to push a needle against my eyeballs and that I “won’t feel a thing.”

Sure, I won’t PHYSICALLY feel it. But this experience is going to weigh on me psychologically for at least 10 to 20 years.

I survived the test, and my eyes are fine, and he was right, it did not feel like anything. It just looked like a light getting really close to your eye and then it’s over. Most importantly, I stayed collected throughout the procedure.

But I do not intend for that to happen ever again.

Please let me take my mom in with me next time.

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