08 July 2009

In Pursuit of Perfection

This is a long post because, well, it was a very long process...

Back on May 23rd I lost one of my contact lenses. I wear rigid gas permeable lenses and they last longer than soft lenses. This set has lasted about 10 years or so. I have worn contacts for so long that I can no longer see very well with glasses and get terrible headaches, so I was a little concerned about how long it would take me to get new contacts here.

So on Monday, May 25th I went into an optician's office and made an appointment. Two days later I went back for my exam.

I guess I should have known at that stage that this would be a long, drawn out affair. As I was waiting for my appointment (I had to wait nearly an hour! Very un-Swiss!), an older man came in to purchase plastic clip-on sunglasses for his prescription glasses.

Keep in mind, these are the plastic things you can purchase off a rack for about $5 at any Wal-Mart in the United States without the need for assistance from a sales clerk.

But the sales clerk first removed his glasses and studied them to make certain they were appropriate for plastic clip-ons. Then she went into the back and returned with some plastic clip-ons. Still holding the man's glasses in her hands, she put the plastic clip-ons on the glasses and studied them to make certain all was correct. She took them off and put them back on a few times. Then she flipped them up and down to verify all was in working condition.

She next placed the man's glasses, with the clip-ons, on his face and studied them. She removed the glasses and made some adjustments on fit, then put them back on. Now satisfied that the plastic clip-on lenses were acceptable, it was time to instruct the man in the use of the clip-ons. She showed him how to attach the clip-ons and then watched him do it himself a couple of times. Then she showed him how to flip the sunglasses up and again he had to prove he knew how to do it.

Finally she was done. She escorted him to the cash register and charged him, and I am not making this up, 49 chf (about $45 USD) for plastic clip-on sunglasses! And the entire transaction took about 30 minutes.

So I shouldn't be surprised that it is now July 8th, I have had 7 appointments for exams & fittings and I still don't have my contacts lenses.

Oh, I have contacts in my eyes. At first they gave me disposable soft lenses to use until the trial pair of rigid gas permeable lenses could arrive. Then I had to wear the trial pair for a week and come back to see how they fit. Even though the lenses felt fine and I had no problem with them, they determined the fit could be better. And so a second pair of trial lenses were ordered. I wore them for a week and this time the fit was deemed acceptable. So finally my permanent lenses have been ordered.

But don't think my appointments have ended. Oh no, not yet. I will need at least two more. The first to get the lenses and check the fit. And then another appointment a week later to make certain all is still ok.

You know, sometimes good enough is fine. I really don't have time to wait for perfection.

Especially not when I have to figure out child care for all these appointments. Each one takes at least 30-45 minutes and Global Baby does not have the patience to wait in his stroller next to me for all of that.

And I'm still trying not to think about the fact that the trial lenses have been worn by others before me and will be sent back to whomever to be worn by someone else after me. Yeech!


G in Berlin said...

Are you sure? That would be illegal in the US, where trial lenses are disposable and used for fit only, not for correction. Things, deadly things, can be passed through semi-permeable lenses.
Your odyssey is still better than mine, which after 6 appointments wound up with my getting my money back and getting a new prescription and glasses in the US (where they were also 50% cheaper at 1€ to $1.50).
I feel your child care pain though: at least my girls were in kita. Although it used up the entire day for each appointment, from dropping them off to picking them up.

Ksam said...

I agree with G in Berlin - I'm pretty sure they throw the trial lenses away afterward, especially since each is made for your specific prescription and the curvature of your eye.

And at least you got in right away - there's often a six month wait to get an appointment with an ophthalmologist here in France!

Global Librarian said...

Here's the evidence that led to my realization of reused trial lenses:

1. The trial ones have not been in my actual prescription, just the right size and curve. The prescription has been close, but not quite right. When I asked why, they said that's all the company they get them from had available at that time.

2. When I returned the first set of lenses, they carefully packed them back up again. They did not throw them away, which is what I was expecting.

3. When, at my last appointment, I asked how many people have worn these before me, they said "Not that many. You're eyesight is quite bad and most people wouldn't be able to wear them."

So, yeah, pretty sure the lenses are worn by more than one person.

Thanks for reassuring me about the deadly diseases that can be passed through the lenses. THAT won't cause any sleepless nights!

G in Berlin said...

I'm pretty sickened on your behalf. I hope they didn't know what they were talking about. Perhaps they have to return the lenses to get credited? Did the package have a seal on each vial when they opened it?
Imagine the lawsuit if you got hep or another viral illness from the lenses.
I wore contact for 23 years and even in the primitive long ago days that never happened and I just want to believe it would not happen in a Western country. (But yeah Lasik- with the pia that getting a light prescription was here, I can't imagine the turmoil if I needed glasses to exist, as I used to.)

Anonymous said...

I'd actually be glad that they're trying to be that thorough, considering that wearing wrong contacts can and will harm your eyes permanently....so in this case I'd say 'good enough' is actually not fine.

Wearing lenses that other people have already worn on the other hand, that seems incredibly wrong and dangerous to me and is definitely not something that I've ever experienced when getting contacts in Switzerland (I've had contacts made in 3 different places).

If there is one in your area, I recommend going to Fielmann. They were where I had my best experience. If I remember correctly, it took me 3 meetings to find the right contacts, but I think it's just one fee of 50 bucks for finding the right lenses, no matter how many sessions it takes :)

Global Librarian said...

I like the process in the US...

Sit down in front of a computer. In 5 minutes or less, the computer has somehow tested your eyesight and perfectly measured your size & curvature. Within a week, you have contacts that fit perfectly and away you go.

They still do everything manually here!!!

The Big Finn said...

Mrs. TBF just orders her contacts from www.discountlens.ch. I don't wear contacts, so I don't really know how yours differ from the ones she orders, but...
As long as you know your prescription, you can just buy them yourself off of the internet in Switzerland. Mrs. TBF says they're about 20 - 30% more expensive than they are in the U.S., but it's hassle-free. Just order online with your credit card, and they'll be shipped right to your home in a few days.

Global Librarian said...

Now you tell me!!!

Ksam said...

Back when I could wear contacts, I ordered mine from the US (from visiondirect.com). They take valid prescriptions from anywhere in the world and their prices are extremely competitive (and so is shipping).

Just to give you an example - my hard contact lenses cost 375€ in France and they cost me about 75€ (shipping included) with Vision Direct. They also sell solution & cleaner for decent prices as well.

DrSpouse said...

My lenses in the UK were fitted by computer but when I picked them up I still had a double check. Can't IMAGINE them allowing anyone else to wear them, though - you sure it's not a mistranslation (how many people has the optician seen w this type, e.g.)

Global Librarian said...

I hope it's a mistranslation!