Monarch – FLY FLY FAR FAR AWAY (from Monarch Dental)

Get it? Monarch butterfly — fly fly away? Well, I thought it was funny at least.

This is a great story for Blindness Awareness Month.. and it just happened a few days ago. There were so many very bizarre and inappropriate things that happened during this story that you would think I was making it up. But I’m not.

About a week ago, I woke up with this really annoying feeling like there was food stuck between my teeth in the back of my mouth. I tried to brush it out, but it was still there. I then realized that I have this flap of gum that is now coming up over my last tooth on the lower left side and is swollen.. very swollen.

I hadn’t found a local dentist since I started this job because my old dentist whom I LOVE (Dr. Chamberlain in Dallas) unfortunately doesn’t accept my new employer’s dental insurance. One of my co-workers recommended Monarch Dental and I found out another trusted co-worker also goes to Monarch Dental, but another location. So I decided to check it out. I went online and filled out their appointment request and was called the next day to make the appointment. Their forms online are not accessible to screen readers and I was very busy so I wasn’t able to complete the forms prior to the appointment.

The dentist’s office is in the mall so my driver walked in with me to help me find it. I walked up to the front desk and the lady tells me to sign in. Okay, it’s a big enough sign in sheet that I can handle that by myself (with my face pretty close to the piece of paper). She then tells me to sit down, I do so. About 30 seconds later, she asks me to come back up and get New Patient paperwork. I ask her if the forms are in any larger print because I’m visually impaired and she says no, and then goes on to the next client in the waiting room. So I sit down and bring out my phone to help me enlarge the documents (I didn’t have my portable CCTV with me.. gotta start carrying that around with me more). While I’m very tediously balancing a pen, a phone, holding the clipboard on my lap, and have Makiko’s leash between my legs, the lady asks me about 2 minutes in to bring up my insurance card and Drivers License. She then starts arguing with me that she can’t accept a State ID and that she has to have a Drivers License. I tell her I can’t drive because I am blind/have a disability, but she says “I’m sorry, I still can’t take this,” so then we go back and forth about this, with a waiting room full of people, and then finally someone else comes up and tells this lady that they CAN accept it. Okay, great, I can finally go sit down. So I go sit down and continue filling out the papers and she calls me up again.. this time there are several other customers at the desk so I have to wiggle my way around them to get to her, she gives me my insurance card back and says she’ll give me my ID back in a bit.. okay, great.. thanks.. I sit down once again. I finish filling out this paperwork (finally!) and go back up to the desk. She then starts asking me all of these questions about my medical history which I filled out on this form with EVERYBODY IN THE ROOM. Can you talk about HIPAA? Okay so eventually I said I would answer any other questions with the dentist. I went and sat back down, with my ID.

Makiko and I wait patiently and then a Dental Assistant comes out to get us. She doesn’t introduce herself, just immediately starts talking about Makiko. We go back to the x-ray room and we barely get in the open doorway and she disappears… I couldn’t find a chair so I tell Makiko to find a chair, and she does so.. good girl! So I sit down and she comes back about 10 minutes later and starts taking x-rays… I got an x-ray jacket for Makiko too. Mind you, she still hasn’t introduced herself. While taking the x-rays she starts asking me super personal questions, “Why do you have a dog?” “Aren’t you really depressed because you are blind?” “How did your parents cope with your diagnosis?” If this were the time and the place for these questions, they are great questions, but 10 minutes after I’ve met you and you haven’t even introduced yourself — I’m not that comfortable to answer these. I can’t remember what I said but I gave her very short answers. We then go into the dental room. I sit there and wait and wait and wait. I’m already pretty frustrated at this point and texting my Mom that I’m not sure I will be coming back here… and then all of a sudden I hear this really loud scream from right behind me…

It was the DENTIST..


At Makiko.

Oh dear goodness. Makiko didn’t move, but she did look up at her. Apparently this Dentist is really scared of dogs, so she went around the border of the room until she was in the opposite corner of Makiko (where I couldn’t really see her from the chair) and told me “I’m kind of scared of dogs, so I’m just going to stand here.. is that okay?” What do you say to that? I wasn’t really sure what to say so I just kind of gave her this “uhhhh” look. She then started talking to the Dental Assistant. I then ask in a very sweet tone, “If she is so scared of dogs, is there someone else that probably should assist me today?” The Dental Assistant replied, “No she’s the only one.” (Notice, I’m still calling them “the dental assistant” and “the dentist,” because I still have yet to be introduced to either of them or learn their names. I probably should have asked but I was too caught up in all the other BS to really care at that moment). So the dentist proceeds with her exam, with no bed side manner, not understanding that I can’t see what she’s talking about, and then tells me that I need a little dental work, she won’t do a cleaning today, I’ll have to come back for 3 or 4 different treatments, they are going to do nothing today (not a cleaning or anything), she doesn’t know what the mass is but is going to “watch it for a week or so,” (Meaning she expected me to come back within this time frame) and refer me to an oral surgeon if necessary “because it could be oral cancer.”

Great. You all know how much I hate that ‘c” word.

Okay, so let’s re-cap. I had a horrible registration experience, was asked very personal questions about my disability and adjustment to disability that I have never been asked directly before, had a dentist scream in my ear and examine me from odd angles, nobody introduced themselves, nobody reviewed the xrays that were taken, and then the office manager/treatment coordinator came in.

This lady then proceeds to show me this really small font list of everything I need done. I tell her I can’t really read it because of my visual impairment and she says “Sorry, this is all I have.” Great. Okay, so then she says “Now you need to pay for all of this upfront to get all your treatments booked.” Um, excuse me? I’ve NEVER DONE THAT… so I used Mom as an excuse. “I need to talk this over with my Mother and then I’ll call you to schedule.” (At this point I vowed that I would never be stepping foot back in this office). The lady was nice enough and understood and then said “have a good night.” Okay, so we get out of the exam chair and escort ourselves down the hallways and out the door.

What an awful experience. I still have this really annoying and painful gum problem. I’m pretty sure it’s infected at this point, and I’m not exaggerating. I’m going to call my PCP tomorrow and see if he will order me an antibiotic over the phone. I got a new dentist recommendation and this time it isn’t a chain, it’s a family dentistry practice. I think I’ll like it much better because that’s what I’m used to. I have been taking pain medication and making sure it stays clean by brushing it well and using Listerine. I also remembered back to the days of when I had braces and had sores on my cheeks, I was given Orajel. Mom picked me up some and oh my goodness this stuff is amazing! It has provided me so much relief.

I attempted to write Monarch an email about this but there is no email to send it to. There is only a short box on the website for an inquiry. So I “Inquired” and asked who at corporate I can send a complaint to. I hope to hear back soon.

I will NEVER ever recommend Monarch to anybody. I know that they probably are very different depending on the location but I can’t ever imagine recommending this to anybody after the experience I have. And, in my job, I am often asked for recommendations.

What an experience.

Blindness Awareness Month- RP Truths

There is a Facebook page that I can really relate to.. It’s called “RP Truths.” This site has images, usually white text on black font, about what it is like to have RP, often humorous accounts of what happens to us in everyday life, or positive spins on our frustrations. It is owned by a young lady with RP. One can also order one of these sayings on t-shirts. I can relate to pretty much every one of the sayings; however, there are so many that I picked ones that I especially connect with to share with you all in hopes of spreading awareness this month. If you have RP or a visual impairment, chances are you will be like “YES THAT IS TOTALLY ME!” I know I was surprised the first time I read them about how strongly I connected with them. 

This has been something that I have long joked about and always amuses me. Now given, I can still see a little bit and I can follow the sound of your voice but that leaves things open for a lot of embarrassing situations and errors. Please be specific if you are ever guiding someone to you or to another object. We can use our orientation and mobility skills to get to you if you help us out a little but with more specific instructions. 

“It’s over there”- If I am looking at you, I will NOT see your hand pointing. I have such a small and blurry tunnel that even if I was looking at your finger, it still wouldn’t be very helpful or accurate. Therefore, being more specific such as “Ten feet to the left of the concession stand at a table,” is much more helpful. 

Most people nowadays, especially those who know me well but forget, just start laughing at themselves as soon as they say it because they know how unhelpful they are being even if they are trying to be helpful. I just laugh right along with them and of course remind them to be a little more specific!

Happy Saturday! 

White Cane Day (Denton) – October 15, 2015

"White Cane Safety Day" is written in white text on a black background with a white symbol of a person walking with a cane.

I’m co-organizing White Cane Day this year and would love to see any locals there. Here is more info:

White Cane Day 2015 is fast approaching! We would love to have your participation.

The Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Denton Field Office and the University of North Texas Office of Disability Accommodation

invite YOU to the fifth annual recognition of White Cane Day!!!

This event is celebrated nationally to raise public awareness of issues related to blindness and low vision. We’ll be using white canes to navigate the square around the courthouse to bring attention to our cause.

When: October 15, 2015 at 12:00pm (noon)

Where: From the corner of N. Elm Street and W. Hickory (at the UNT on the Square gallery) for a walk around the block to the front steps of the old Denton County Courthouse.

Why: To raise public awareness of mobility-related barriers faced by people with disabilities to transportation in Denton.

Our plan: We are meeting at 12:00pm at UNT on the Square to pass out canes to people who reserve them in advance. Then we are heading out on the sidewalk around the courthouse block toward Locust Street, up W. Oak Street and back to N. Elm Street to the courthouse steps. Our entire walk, including returning borrowed canes to DBS at UNT on the Square should take less than half an hour from start to finish.

Bring your own cane if you have one, or RSVP to reserve one while supplies last, but you don’t need a cane to march with us and show your support. A nice crowd is what we need to raise awareness.

Please RSVP your cane request by October 8th, 2013 by email so we can get a headcount.

To RSVP for a cane, if you would like to share ideas, or if you have questions or concerns, you may contact Jessica Naert at or 940-384-7912.

Hope to see you there!

Blindness Awareness Month Fact of the Day (October 15)

An individual with a genetic condition, such as Retinitis Pigmentosa, can have no family members whatsoever that have the disease. Such is the case with my family. I have Retinitis Pigmentosa but there is no trace of it on either side of the family. Now obviously both of my families have to be carriers, but my RP is a sporadic, isolate form meaning they do not know what gene mutation caused my RP or how exactly I got it. This is a good and a bad thing. It is a good thing because my sister doesn’t have it and she really wants to go into the medical field and for what she has to do, it would be very hard for her to do with a visual impairment such as RP. It is a bad thing because I do not know if I have kids if I would pass it onto them or not. Even if you do know where your RP came from, there is still the chance of you not knowing if you were going to pass it onto your kids or not.. and that’s a whole controversial topic in itself. Again, there’s an idea for another post. 🙂

Blindness Awareness Month Fact of the Day (October 14)

Now, this is going to sound very blunt and may be a taboo topic for some of you but this is surprisingly one of those questions that when I present to groups and ask them if they have any questions about disability and give them the opportunity to ask any question, without judgement, they usually ask.. are you ready for it.. “Can an individual with a visual impairment have sex?” They have asked this to my partner too when I present with her, she is in a wheelchair. To me that makes a little more sense because their is that lack of physical motion and mobility sometimes with individuals in wheelchairs. However, with an individual who is visually impaired, all that is “lacking” is their ability to see clearly and fully. Most people have sex in the dark anyway, I’d imagine, or they don’t stare at their partner the entire time.. one of my friends always says when she is asked this question, “well do you have sex with the lights on? No, I didn’t think so.. it’s the same kind of experience with us.” I usually say something like that in my presentations because it gets the message across. So yes, most individuals with a vision disorder CAN have sex, unless of course there is something else going on but purely a visual impairment does not prevent or really interfere with an individual having sexual activity.

Blindness Awareness Month Fact of the Day (October 13)

I have had this happen to me many times.. what do you do if you’re a sighted individual and you’re meeting an individual with a visual impairment for the first time? Do you hold out your hand, do you hug them, do you hold out your hand and then if they don’t respond take it back like nothing happened, do you announce that your hand is there.. what is the proper way to do this?

I’ve been asked this a few times before and when I have told the person I am meeting prior to meeting them that I am blind, I have been told after that several individuals have gone through this same thought process. Surprisingly, if you google “how to shake hands with a blind person (or person with visual impairment)” nothing really helpful comes up.

What I generally do to eliminate this awkwardness upon meeting someone is to firmly extend my hand first. That way before it has the chance to get really awkward the individual can find my hand and shake it, rather than me trying to find theirs or me not seeing theirs/not knowing they are extending their hand and making them feel awkward. However, if you do want to shake somebody’s hand and they don’t seem to be sticking out theirs, there really is no harm in politely saying “I’m extending my arm to shake your hand,” or something like that. It may sound weird to you, but it’s informative to the individual with the visual impairment. Really, most individuals with vision loss will be very patient with whatever happens so just relax. 🙂

Blindness Awareness Month Facts (FUN!) of the Day (October 12th)

Ding.. ding.. ding! That’s the bonus bell! Haha. 🙂 I found a bunch of really random, fun, not incredibly useless facts about eyes or vision disorders and decided to combine them all into one post. Most of these came from the NIH (National Institute of Health) site.

  1. Your dog or cat’s eyes appear to glow in the dark because they have mirrors on the back of their eyes.. yes that’s right, they have something called tapetum, which are silver mirrors on the back of their eyes. This helps them to have great night vision.
  2. While humans can’t normally look in opposite directions at the same time, chameleons can!
  3. If you’re sitting at a computer and are experiencing a lot of glare, adjust the lighting and make sure you’re at least 20 inches away from the screen.
  4. Some of the more commonly known vision disorders, such as age related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts have increased risk of happening in individuals who smoke.
  5. Many think that Benjamin Franklin invented the bifocals, when really Samuel Pierce, an English optician, invented them.
  6. Carrots do help maintain eye health.
  7. The phrase “you’re going to wear your eyes out,” is simply silly because while your eyes can feel fatigued after extended use, you will never really “wear them out.”
  8. Tropical fish and many bright colored animals can see colors that humans cannot because they have more color vision cells. Isn’t that cool?
  9. “Red eye” in photographs is caused by the light reflecting off the blood vessels in the retina. Interesting fact, I thought!
  10. I thought Scorpions could have a lot of eyes at 12 but flatworms can have as many as 100. Weird!