A poor diagnosis

Francisco Castro

La Ceguera

HAVANA TIMES — I never knew his nationality, and I don’t remember his name. But none of that is important. It’s only that he was on-call at the hospital that day; and from among all the doctors, he was the one called on to attend to me.

About two weeks ago my eyes became bloodshot. I figured that it was due to being tired, a lack of sleep, or reading in low light. Still, every day it got a little worse, so I decided to go see a specialist.

The facility, popularly known as “La Ceguera” (the Blindness Hospital) was recommended to me as being the best in its field; so even though I felt the usual distress one does when going to a place like this, I had the assurance that it would be staffed by trained professionals.

When my turn came, I went into the examination room and I found one female physician attending to a patient and this young man, most likely a foreign medical student, who asked me to come over to him.

After the first exam of my bare eyes, followed by a few routine questions, he asked me to sit behind some equipment so that he could check my eyes in more detail. And after much thought, he determined that the redness was due to damaged corneas.

He prescribed me some eye drops, which I had to immediately apply in the infirmary, in addition to directing me to keep a bandage over my left eye for 24 hours. The next day I would have to do the same thing with the right eye, but he said I could have that done at a polyclinic in my neighborhood to avoid having to make the longer trip back to the hospital.

Though held in suspense by his diagnosis, and with half of my vision lost, I went home. The next 24 hours were the most uncomfortable I had ever experienced. I broke several things in the house and I could hardly sleep, thinking about the imminent danger of losing my eyesight and all that this would entail.

The next day at my clinic, the ophthalmologist — full of concern after hearing my story — removed the patch. But after examining me, he immediately said, with a slight smile, that all I had was conjunctivitis.

He prescribed several medications and told me to do special washes and to put on compresses. He requested to see the earlier doctor’s prescription again and asked if he was Latin America. I said yes, and — with a shake of his head — he ended his questioning.

A week later I was almost cured but I still went back to my ophthalmologist at the nearby clinic, as he had asked. At the end, when saying goodbye, along with a handshake, the doctor smiled and said: “So much for the damaged corneas.”




One thought on “A poor diagnosis

  • Hope you didn’t just drop this dangerous mis-diagnosis. It might take some effort, but getting word to the student doctor’s supervisors about his mistake would perhaps prevent him from making the same mistake with someone else not so lucky as you.

    Student doctors are by definition less capable than they hopefully will be. Especially if patients speak up!

    Maybe you have done that already. Maybe the opthamologist you saw passed on his observations, but my experience is that doctors like many other professions, don’t like to criticize peers.

    Good luck.

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