Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

My Eyes Have It

I have been having a rough time this past month. Besides my usual (and sometimes dramatic) shifts in mood, I have been suffering from an eye infection. This eye infection started out where it felt as though I had road salt in my eyes but it progressively worsened to the point where it has driven me nearly to the edge of sanity — which considering that I am already somewhat insane, isn’t saying much, I suppose.

Anyway, I spent yesterday at home, overwhelmed by the world in general and unfortunately out of reach of wifi, when my eyes became so painful — itchy, burning and dry — that I became absolutely frantic and thought I’d lose my mind. Later that evening, my skin broke out in hives, even in my mouth (!), which made everything even worse. Whether the hives were the result of my many allergies or from anxiety caused by my painful eyes, I don’t know, although antihistamines did eventually relieve my itching skin.

So I talked to the pharmacist today about my eyes, which are still incredibly painful, hoping there was some over-the-counter remedy that I could use to relieve my symptoms. Well, no, there isn’t. The pharmacist took one look at my eyes and immediately started to scold me.

“Why haven’t you seen a doctor about that?”

“Um .. because I don’t have a doctor?” I said hesitantly, not wanting to tell him that I not only don’t have a doctor, but I also don’t have any health insurance, nor do I have any money to pay for (yet another) hospital bill or ER visit.

“Well, you should have seen a doctor three weeks ago,” he replied. “You need antibiotics now, because this infection won’t go away otherwise. You only have two eyes and you should take care of them. This infection is damaging your eyes!”

GAH! I have almost never been sick in my adult life (unless you consider the minor fact that I am insane), and now, it seems that I am always sick, or recovering from some sickness or other. Why me? Why now?


  1. #1 Rob Knop
    July 27, 2007

    Can you get any disability medicare? Or do they not classify people that way if it is mental health issues that they’ve had?

    Are you close enough to Canada that you could duck up there to see a doctor? Or is that not realistic? (I have no clue how Canada treats foreign visitors. It must not be easy, or everybody in the north of the US would be flooding across the border to see doctors.)

  2. #2 Scott Belyea
    July 27, 2007

    Are you close enough to Canada that you could duck up there to see a doctor? Or is that not realistic?

    Not all that realistic. I suspect one could be seen by a doctor at a hospital emergency clinic (although you might well be billed later given that you’d have no provincial health card or out-of-country insurance), but any antibiotic prescription would need to be filled at a pharmacy and paid for.

  3. #3 Bob O'H
    July 27, 2007

    I’m not American, and haven’t lived in the US, so I sometimes wonder if I have any right to get pissed off with your social system. On the other hand, the US is a rich country, so it should be able to afford to look after its citizens. Grrr.

    Please keep us informed: and if you’re still having problems with hives, we’ll send you some bees and you can sell the honey.


  4. #4 PuckishOne
    July 27, 2007

    Is there a university near you with a medical program? The vast majority of these have reduced-fee or sliding-scale clinics where you can get treatment for a variety of things by supervised medical students and interns. That might be better than the local public health clinic (in my area it is, at least).

    And Scott is right: a non-Canadian citizen will be given emergency care but will not be eligible for the free prescription drugs. Rob does make a good point about SSI, though – it wouldn’t hurt to check it out.

    Best of luck to you and I hope you have a speedy recovery.

  5. #5 kate
    July 27, 2007

    i went through a horrific series of eye infections last summer because – get this – i was writing for my qualifying exams for so many hours on the computer, my eyes were perpetually dry and thus prone to infection. this eventually culminated in a day-long stint w/ an eyepatch. if that isn’t sacrifice for science, i don’t know what is.

    plus your allergic reaction, on top of the infection itself…poor thing! hope you’re feeling better!

  6. #6 Chris' Wills
    July 28, 2007

    I’ve always been suprised that the US hasn’t a free at point of delivery health care system for basic medical care.

    A healthy populace is a productive one; the UK NHS isn’t perfect but at least it does provided medical care for anyone who turns up.

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