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Patients say the darndest things


I'm sure all of us have had days like this, or months like this, or even years like this, what I like to call, “Patients say the darndest things." See if any of these encounters sound familiar.

Years ago, Art Linkletter had a TV show called, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” (Oh, I know I'm showing my age now). It was cute and funny and played upon children's limited knowledge of the world.

I'm sure all of us have had days like this, or months like this, or even years like this, what I like to call, “Patients say the darndest things." See if any of these encounters sound familiar.

Patient (on a voicemail): “Ernie, my eyes are really red and bothering me. Here's the number to my drugstore. Please call me in something as soon as you can.” (I haven't seen this person in two years).

Is an optometric education cost-effective?

Patient: “I'm here to get colored contacts.”

Me: “I'm sorry, but your prescription really doesn't allow for you to see well with spherical contacts.”

Patient: “Oh no, I've had them before and saw just fine.”

So, as I'm sure we've all done, in the phoropter I demonstrated the difference between her astigmatic prescription and the spherical equivalent, which decreased her best-corrected visual acuity by several lines.

Patient: “Oh, that's good enough. I can see OK with that (20/60). Can I get them in blue? I've always wanted blue eyes.”


Me: “I know you're here to get new contact lenses today, but you have a small peripheral corneal ulcer on your left cornea. You're going to have to discontinue contact lens wear for a while as we treat this presentation.”

Patient: “You mean I got to give up my contacts?”

Me: “That's what I mean.”

Patient: “But I can't do that. I got a softball game tonight, and my team is in first place.”

Me: “Just out of curiosity, what position do you play?”

Patient: “Oh, I don't play. I just need to be able to hand out the beer after the game.”


Me: “That's a nice red eye you got there. How long is it been that way?”

Patient: “A week.”

Me: “I'm certain that eye is red and painful. Had you been sleeping in your contacts before the red eye started?”

Patient (sheepishly): “Yes”

Me: “How long has the contact been out of your eye now?”

Patient: “It’s still in there. I don't see well out of my old glasses.”

Snake oil scam claims to restore vision 

Me: “It's good to see you again, but I'm a little confused. When I saw you last year, you were supposed to come back a week later for a contact lens check.”

Patient: “I was?”

Me: “Yes, you were. I see in my notes we made you a follow-up appointment, and my staff has called you several times when you didn't show. How long did that pair of contacts last you?”

Patient: “I still have them on.”

I know these may sound amusing, but the scenarios reveal a real problem. Perhaps the problem is mine or my staff’s in failing to communicate proper contact lens care and wear. It is very frustrating when you try to ensure the patient understands proper contact lens wear and care and then hear stories like this. Perhaps the problem is our patients often treat contact lenses as nothing more than a commodity and/or a cosmetic device, instead of the medical device they are. What's the answer? Continual and constant patient re-education.

Don’t think the problem is limited to contacts alone:

Me: “I'm sorry you're having trouble with your new glasses. What exactly seems to be the problem?”

Patient: “Well Doc, I see fine outta them when they're sitting on my nose, but I see better out of 'em when I turn them upside down.” (No, he really didn't.)

I'd enjoy hearing any great and funny patient stories you might have. Heck, they might show up in a future editorial! Send them to me at erniebowling@icloud.com. Hope to hear from you soon!

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