So, you think you have problems? I know a couple who sold everything and opened a breakfast/lunch place in February. Yeah, they are doing just fine. Sure. 

Even if someone has it worse, that doesn’t diminish the pain and agony of practicing optometry right now. As I wrote this column, the governor of Texas announced something all optometrists long dreaded: hair salons and barbershops must remain closed until further notice.  

How am I supposed to enter society like this? I have to slick my hair back with bear grease (still available online from several essential bear grease factories) just to squeeze my giant bushy head into a T-shirt. Also, I feel like I have gained the COVID 19 pounds but can’t be sure since the scale shot springs across the room weeks ago.

It is easy to understand the hair stuff. It just grows. I have friends who wish they had that problem. But how can I be gaining weight? All I do is run… to the liquor store. It’s one of the only places we can go to escape the house, and a box from there weighs more than anything I could lift at the gym. 

(Update: Barbers finally opened, and I lost 10 pounds thanks to Michelle and her magic shears; but with nine pounds to go, I have doubled my liquor store runs.)

Back to the Grind

Texas’s governor has also given the all-clear for optometric practices to reopen! That sounds amazing, but you folks know what a challenge this will be. I think an optometry office is way safer than, for example, a grocery store, but our patients may have a different opinion. As always, the patient runs the show. If patients want to avoid coming in, they probably won’t come in.  

So, I gave up my temporary career as a garage organizer and trudged back into the office. I was a little rusty, but my colleague kindly reminded me what that white area of the eye is called. He googled it. 

I was immediately busy, if seeing 50% of my normal schedule is busy; but, that is required to maintain safe social distancing and give me a chance to remove my N95 and breathe once every 30 minutes. 

How can our hero doctors and nurses make intelligent medical decisions when they suit up and reduce their O2 intake by a third? Good thing they were 50% smarter than the rest of us to start with, I guess. 

My patients seem comfortable overall. We are all appropriately masked, everything is clean and sanitary, we use automated phoropters and we have cough shields on the slit lamps.  

Folks want to get back to whatever normal can be at this point, and we aren’t having as many no-shows as I would have thought. Patients want to get their contact lenses and update their glasses. They want us to help them be more comfortable staring at a computer all day and all night under house arrest.  

Will this mean a second wave of COVID-19? Probably, and that’s not good. However, sitting at home watching our country fade into oblivion is probably not good either. We love our freedom and, despite what you hear on the news every day, Americans are not stupid. We can be as safe as we want to be. It’s always been our choice.  

But the next outbreak will not, in my opinion, happen because an optometrist took good care of a patient. There’s a much greater chance it will happen because you just had to go get a haircut.