I'm supposed to qualify on the rifle range a few times a year in order to be allowed to do my job. It's a mark of how much of an afterthought we are that we haven't had any range time scheduled for the past 3 years: almost exactly the period of time during which the vision in my right eye has been seriously deteriorating. And I am right-handed, which means that when shooting I close my left (good) eye and aim with my right (nearly blind) eye. A friend who is a Marine vet told me to always keep both eyes open, but I tried that, and I missed the target altogether.
We have a new guy, and he had to qualify at range, so we all finally got scheduled to go in and prove we can hit the side of a barn for the first time since this all started for me. I was sweating bullets (ha ha) over this. I've been worrying about it ever since I noticed my vision starting to go. I thought, the next time I'm at range I will just flunk, it's that simple, and then I will lose my job, and then what will I do?
I pushed these worries to the back of my mind, but now I realize what a load it's been on me for the past 3 years.
I got to range. I tried to shoot right-handed, as I always have. I failed miserably. I don't own a gun: I don't ever practice: I'm a terrible shot the best of times. I've always shot barely well enough to qualify. Now I couldn't even do that.
The range master was really nice, and very patient. "Try again" he said. "My left eye has always been stronger than my right" I told him (perfectly true - I've been wearing glasses for nearsightedness since I was in 6th grade), "and recently it's just been getting worse" I said. (Also true!) He was very understanding, as we are both of a certain age. "I don't know what to do" I confessed. Then all of a sudden, a somewhat obvious idea hit me. "What if I try shooting left-handed?" I asked him. He shrugged. "Why not?" he said.
I shot left handed. I aimed with my good left eye. It felt very very strange, but it was totally doable. To qualify we only need to score 75%. I managed to get 86%.
I get to keep my job.
I didn't really realize what a burden of worry I'd been carrying for the past 3 years until I left the range. I think my knees actually buckled a teeny little bit. I wanted to lie down somewhere and do some deep breathing. Or take a nap.
But since I get to keep my job, I had to run right out and keep doing my job. Which I did.
Two words: pre-existing conditions (hereafter referred to as "PEC's").
I am currently able-bodied, gainfully employed, a contributing member of society. But I am one easy job loss away from being uninsureable, just because I stopped ignoring my vision loss and went to a doctor to get it diagnosed.
Does the recently-passed health care bill change that? Does anybody know? I keep hearing about children with PEC's and how they can no longer be denied coverage, which is great, but what about non-children?
Weirdly, if I hadn't gone to a doctor but had instead just continued to live with my symptoms and worries in ignorance, I think it would have been a non-issue, insurance-wise. Even though a slow-growing, non-malignant tumor must have been there for years anyway. But as long as it wasn't official, it wouldn't count as "pre-existing". Even though it did exist previously.