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Long drives for tiny patient and her family

Editor’s note: The Journal reached out to readers asking them to share their experiences and frustrations in trying to see a doctor, ranging from primary care to specialists. Here is one of their stories.

Jessica Cordell, Farmington, N.M.

Jessica Cordell

Our daughter, who turned two this past autumn, needed surgery last August to remove the lens from one eye due to a congenital cataract. We live in the Farmington area, and the only pediatric ophthalmologists in the state are in Albuquerque. The eye exams, surgery, post-op care, and endlessly repeated exams since then have all required a drive of over three hours each way for us (taking bathroom breaks into account with another young kid in the car). I have lost track of how many times we’ve made that drive, and we don’t have a lot of money. We also stayed at a hotel near the children’s hospital the night before her surgery and the night after, despite having nothing resembling extra money, because there was no way we could make that drive from Farmington in time for her early morning appointments.

Now she has a contact lens in one eye because the doctor couldn’t get an implant lens to stay in place inside her eyeball during surgery. When I was on the verge of tears from the stress of trying to schedule an appointment with my daughter’s regular ophthalmologist in Albuquerque on a day and at a time that I could arrange transportation for (and finding that it seemed she was hardly ever available in the office), I even called the children’s hospital and asked if there was ANYONE else we could take our daughter that might have a schedule that worked better for us. I was told no, pediatric ophthalmologists are one kind of specialist that is massively underrepresented in the whole state.

Oh. And there’s also the fact that I’m 40 and having gradually worsening hormone problems. But last I checked, endocrinologists are at least as hard to find in NM as are pediatric ophthalmologists. So I take fish oil, Google other home remedies, and hope something helps and none of it screws me up further.

Last weekend we did finally find a Farmington optometrist (still no ophthalmologist) who says he can help with lens insertion/removal and similar non-surgical issues, if needed. He doesn’t officially see patients so young, but feels he can help us in those minor-but-possibly-pressing needs, should they arise, since we’re in a tight spot.

It is SO good to finally have some degree of local support!

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