September rolls around and it’s time for the board meeting of the non-profit you and your doctor pal are about to take over. You are still trying to figure out how a resounding NO became a yes, but you suspect it has something to do with your exec director-to-be’s (XD2B) enthusiasm for the endeavor. Both you and he are working frantically to finish up your presentation to the existing board, establish your own, new board of directors, and work up a plan for administering and moving the non-profit forward. Not surprisingly, you encounter resistance from many of the group’s members, who have pledged their allegiance to the founder, now and forever. They cannot accept that their leader needs to move on for his own sanity. You press on, anyway.
Since meeting your XD2B a few months ago, you have become good friends. Although you live nearly 1000 miles apart, the Internet allows you to communicate daily and you get to know one another well enough to finish each others sentences. You are of one mind regarding the direction of the non-profit, its mission, purpose and vision. You also share similar tastes in music, a love of books and a warped sense of humor, but most important, you share an urgent sense of necessity to help people suffering from complications of refractive surgery. Your need is driven by your search for solutions to your own wretched visual issues, his by his love of his profession and the knowledge that he can help restore vision.
The board meeting occurs in conjunction with a support group meeting, attended by group members from all over the country. The agenda includes presentations on relevant subjects and an opportunity for scans with the latest equipment and evaluations for those patients who wish to participate, provided by the sponsoring institution. While you and your XD2B are busting your buns to polish your presentation, the attendees are off comparing disasters and getting acquainted. You have taken advantage of the offer for scans and an evaluation, like everyone else. At breakfast the following morning, everyone is comparing scans. They ask to see yours. It didn’t occur to you to bring your paperwork with you, so you go back up to your room to retrieve it. The scanner is a highly sophisticated device that “reads” the aberrations in your vision and plots the results as scatter patterns in little boxes. You haven’t really had time to study yours, but apparently, they are unusual. Where the other kids’ boxes all have nice patterns, dense in the center and becoming sparse as the radius widens, your boxes are almost entirely black, with the occasional white dot. This is your first real moment of truth. You don’t know exactly what it means, but you know you are screwed.
Everyone makes a fuss over your results, but you don’t have time to dwell on the meaning of those black boxes. You and your XD2B get back to work. Late in the day, satisfied with your presentation, you emerge from your work cocoon to join the others for dinner. Who on earth chose a restaurant so damned dark inside? Most everyone struggles to read the menu, with those who can see better reading it to those who cannot. Inability to read the menu has little impact on how much anyone can eat or drink, but the darkness in the place provides lots of grist for the complaint mill. After the meal, your group returns to the hotel, where they continue to complain as you make the rounds saying goodbye. Everyone except the existing and new board members will leave early in the morning. You and your XD2B will meet with the board after breakfast and if all goes well, by the time you go home, you will be the new president and your partner in crime will be your exec director.
The meeting brings some unpleasant surprises. The financials you were provided earlier gave no indication that the non-profit had no resources, nor did they show that it was in debt to the founder for a healthy sum. Faced with a choice of backing away and letting the organization die, or moving forward and figuring out a way to make it work, you and your XD2B choose the latter. This will prove far more difficult than you ever anticipated.
Resistance to the change in leadership comes swiftly and members begin to abandon the bulletin board. Neither of you is concerned. The board has become just another place for people to vent. Instead of getting support and moving on, they have made it their home. A former board member accuses you of collaborating with industry; another group member, who thought she would be taking over, tries sabotage. She writes a letter to one of your contributing doctors, in which she describes you, among many other things, as a “man-eater” and manipulator, completely unfit to run the organization and “very unattractive.” The doctor, somewhat confused, forwards it to your exec director, a doctor, himself, who when he reads the part about being your lap dog, becomes very incensed and boots the woman from the group. The drama disgusts both of you; within a few months, it becomes clear that you will have to make major changes. You decide to dissolve the current organization and start over with your own, dedicated solely to facilitating rehab options and providing accurate information to patients, their families and friends. A year later, you buy a URL and start the process from scratch.
You and your pal are in this, thick as thieves, for the long haul. You still have no idea why you are seeing the way you are, nor what happened to cause such a result, nor whether there is anything that can be done. Your lawsuit is moving forward with all the speed of a snail through molasses, and you still can’t get a pair of glasses that works because your vision fluctuates as much as two diopters between the time you get up and the time you go to bed. You devote your energies to helping others, but you continue to look for help for yourself.
A call from your attorney brings bad news. Your expert witness has withdrawn and you are scheduled to appear in court next week. Without an expert, your case is dead. He scrambles to find someone else, but it has become nearly impossible to get anyone to testify for the plaintiff. Refractive surgeons are a relatively small group; no one wants to pee in their own little community pool. You drop your lawsuit, with the provision that if you don’t want Doogie Jr to come back and sue you for filing a frivolous suit, you cannot come back after him later. With no other apparent choice, and upon your lawyer’s recommendation, you sign the paper.
Several days later, you read about a new, highly sensitive device described as “the world’s most accurate corneal scanner.” While you are not sure why this is important, you know that it is. A little research indicates that of the two in the country, one is in New York, the other is just an hour and a half from you. You gather up your courage to call the doctor’s office, expecting that he will only see you with a referral from your local doctor. Three years after surgery, you don’t have an any kind of eye doctor, local or otherwise. To your surprise, the receptionist explains that the doctor is with patients all afternoon, but will call you back as soon as he’s done for the day. She takes your name, phone number and reason for your call. All afternoon and evening, you sit by the phone like an anxious teenager waiting for a boy to call. It’s after 11:00pm when the phone rings with an unfamiliar number.
“Hi, this is Dr. Xxxxxxx. Sounds like you’ve got some serious stuff goin’ on. Wanna tell me what’s happening?”
The doctor will see you in three weeks. Expect to spend the day.
(to be continued)