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It’s Been a While Since My Last Exam…

Hi, I’m Grant! I work for SecretPenguin, ilumin’s branding agency.


This is a story about the highs, the lows, the anxiety, and the unexpected turns of my first eye exam in a very, very long time.

If this sounds like you, feel free to go ahead and request an appointment now before reading on.

Had I been missing out for 12 years?

There I stood, over a decade removed since my last eye appointment, cleaning out an old box of forgotten odds and ends.

Among the sea of old business cards, vacation tchotchkes, and dead cell phones, I came across something I hadn’t seen since college when I was diagnosed with an astigmatism—my old silver glasses case. As a naturally curious person (who sits in front of a computer for work) I instinctively put those 2010-chic frames on and looked at my computer screen, and promptly panicked. 

The letters on screen looked crisper! Or did they? Some images seemed blurry while some seemed sharper. Should I have been wearing these for the last 12 years? Had I harmed my vision?

Had I been missing out on clearer vision for the entirety of my twenties and early thirties?

Thankfully, I’m lucky enough to have a professional relationship with the doctors at ilumin who I could turn to in my moment of anxiety.

Where Do I Even Begin?

I know I’m not alone when it comes to appointment anxiety for anything health-related—doctor, dentist, etc. I’m guilty of not staying totally up-to-date on regular check-ins and exams, and I can’t help but feel judged when admitting this to receptionists and doctors. Even though, as a 31-year-old, I only need an eye exam every five years, I was well behind schedule.

But what kind of appointment do I schedule? Does the glasses test happen at the same appointment as the vision test? What do I even say when I make the appointment?

Thankfully when I finally made the call to set my appointment, it took less than 30 seconds to feel that relaxed, personal experience that sets ilumin apart from other ophthalmologists. It was easy to tell that the warm voice on the other end of the phone could hear the unease in my voice as I explained my situation. No one likes being interrogated, so it was nice to feel like I was having a conversation about my eye appointment history (or lack thereof) rather than a confession.

A short phone call later, my first eye exam since 2010 was booked.

Feeling the Warmth

It’s hard to explain what “warmth” means when you’re talking about a relationship with anyone, including your eye doctor. You just kind of know it when you feel it, right? And sometimes, you never realize how much you appreciate that warmth until you feel it for the first time.

Imagine my delight walking into the ilumin office on a chilly November day after having only experienced eye appointments in sterile-feeling white offices with fluorescent lights and floors that screech on the rubber of your shoes with every step!

The ilumin office is the ideal blend of cozy and roomy. It’s thoughtfully designed and decorated—no drab officeware or outdated waiting room furniture in sight. I’m greeted with a smile and promptly checked in for my appointment.

During my short wait, I overhear conversations between friends that turn out to actually be between patients and doctors. Needless to say, it’s an unfamiliar yet pleasant thing to experience at a medical practice.

And the cabin fireplace scene playing on the large flatscreen TV in the waiting room is the perfect thoughtful touch on this cold and blustery day. If not for the pleasantly short wait, I would have drifted off to a nap in that comfy chair.

The Main Event: Give It to Me Straight, Doc!

When I’m brought to the exam room, I’m already relaxed and my anxiety over the impending questions about my absentee eye exam history has almost totally melted away.

My Ophthalmic Technician asks her questions in a way I understand, not like she’s reading off script from a medical textbook. When I’m not sure how to answer a question about my distance vision, she quickly reframes the question in a way that instantly makes more sense to me, and I’m able to answer without feeling like a doofus.

She then explains the tests we’re about to do instead of thrusting me into some pressure-packed situation like the eye appointments I remember having as a kid. I use a device to cover my left eye and read off a screen, then my right eye, and I’m given feedback every step of the way, so I know things are going well.

Before I know it, she reassures me that I still have 20/20 vision! Not only that, but my ocular pressure is good, so I need not worry about glaucoma. What a nice feeling it is to get that feedback right away! The theme of the day is becoming clear—I feel comfortable, relaxed, and informed instead of feeling judged or examined by a stranger.

Once again, you never realize how delightful this warmth is until you feel it for the first time at an eye doctor’s office.

Meeting Dr. Menke

After my vision tests, I’m given pupil-dilating drops and some waiting time until they kick in for the final exams with Dr. Menke. As my pupils dilate and my vision gets fuzzy (like it’s supposed to!) I can’t fall back on millennial instincts to stare at my phone for the whole wait. Instead, I get a few minutes to appreciate the thoughtful design touches of the room: the soft lighting, the sleek and high-tech dimmer switches the doctors use to effortlessly adjust light during your exams, and the immaculate equipment that looks like it unpacked the day of my appointment. Must…resist…urge…to succumb to all the comfort and slip into a nap.

Luckily, Dr. Menke saves the day when he enters the room for my final exam. Having joined SecretPenguin still in the throes of the pandemic, this happens to be the first time we’ve met in person. We chat for a moment and he thanks me for coming in to get a first-hand look at the ilumin experience before the examination, and I really feel appreciated.

Dr. Menke calmly explains each test as it’s being performed, and happily indulges my (totally unnecessary) curiosity about what “0.2 on the left and 0.2 on the right” means after he assesses my potential risk for glaucoma. Luckily, I’m in the clear.

Finally, we reach the moment of truth. I hear a drumroll in my head (maybe that’s my heart nervously racing?) as Dr. Menke prepares to give me an answer on whether I need glasses…

And I don’t!

An Experience I Wasn’t Expecting

When I was growing up, any kind of Doctor’s appointment always felt like a time-consuming chore that I had to put up with. If you’ve read this far, you’ve probably picked up on my not-so-subtle anxiety with these kinds of visits.

And that’s what makes the ilumin experience that much more enjoyable. You can see firsthand how much thought has been put into making the experience calming for their patients. The space is pleasant and comfortable, not dull or unobtrusive. The receptionists, technicians, and doctors are thoughtful, caring people who have conversations with you, not one-sided exams that feel cold.

You never know how much you enjoy this sense of warmth until you experience it for yourself. Considering the fact that eye care at ilumin costs the same as it does at other practices, it’s hard to imagine going back to Ophthalmologists I’ve been to in the past with their cold, unwelcoming offices and staff that seem more concerned with getting me out the door than they do actually treating me.

Just something to keep in mind the next time you’re a little behind on your eye appointment—even if it’s been 12 years.

If you’re due for an eye exam, request an appointment here with the ilumin team or call 402.933.6600 today to give your vision the respect it deserves!