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Asking better questions

“If you already know the answers, ask better questions.” Yesterday, that phrase kept rolling across a computer screen in front of me in large, bold letters as I sat in a darkened examining room in a medical specialty clinic.

I was awaiting my now-monthly “treatment” for wet form AMD (age-related macular degeneration). Like millions of other older Americans, I have a degenerating macula which means my “near vision” is compromised and visual distortion is my constant companion. My mother, who had AMD (dry form) for decades, observed, “It’s like looking at the world through a crooked venetian blind.”

The clinic was packed yesterday — masks on every patient and staff person. Some double masks. There was more than six-foot distancing in the waiting area (well-monitored).

As I waited to be called for my treatment. I sat thinking about entering the clinic setting a few minutes earlier. The receptionist had asked, “Have you had any recent COVID testing? Have you done any international travel lately?” She did not ask “Have you been vaccinated against COVID-19?”

Wasn’t that an important question? Was it already noted in my chart? Should it not be affirmed? Would they have still treated me if they asked and I said no? Were they afraid of a less-than-positive reaction from a vaccinated patient hearing the person ahead of them was not vaccinated?

I had other questions, but a nurse had come out and said, “Sharon,” beckoning me through a door that had hand-sanitizing stations on both sides and, once you entered, banks of sliding-door treatment areas.

My ophthalmologist always calls it a “treatment,” never an “injection” into each eye dedicated to suppressing progression of the diagnosis that I and more than 1.7 million Americans have received.

A few months ago, when this injection treatment was recommended, I recall some hesitation on my part. After all, this was not a “shot in the arm,” it was a shot in the eye — both eyes. My hesitation was understandable, I suppose, but short-lived.

“What am I afraid of?” I thought. What would my daughter, who is destined to have genetically passed AMD as well, say if I refused this treatment?

I wait to be treated. I want to be treated. I am thoughtful. I ponder the “ask better questions” phrase sweeping across the screen in front of me. In effect, I am here to receive a “vaccination” of sorts. I ask myself, if I were anti-vax advocate would I say, “No eye injections for me — I am willing to go blind.” Side note — AMD is the leading cause of blindness in older adults.

Or what about these questions. Would we be in a better place with COVID if we had another word for vaccination? Do people who are unwilling to be vaccinated also reject vaccinating their animals against rabies and distemper? Do they reject treatment if they are hospitalized for COVID?

What if the airways were flooded (every day, all day long) with people we trust (Dolly Parton? Meryl Streep? The Pope?) telling us why they opted for vaccination. What if…?

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.