The short answer to the title of this post is I actually had no idea she needed glasses! But I will explain how we accidentally stumbled across the discovery of my daughter, Jaxxi’s, poor sight. When I shared photos of her wearing glasses for the first time 16 months old, I had a few other Mum’s message me, curious as to how I knew she needed them. It occurred to me there weren’t any sign in our case that indicated she couldn’t see! It’s not like a child who is barely a toddler could explain they can’t see! If you think about it, whatever the world looks like to a baby, whether blurry or patchy, they would just assume it’s how everyone sees. How would a little kid know what their vision is meant to look like if they’ve never experienced it? They have nothing to compare their bad vision with. I’m glad we found out when we did, because I just don’t know how long it would have been until we realized there was a problem? Now, I’ll explain how we did end up knowing she needed glasses…
From just before her first birthday, we noticed her left eye wasn’t quite straight. By 15 months old, it was very clearly turning in, and even her right one didn’t seem very straight either! Assuming she had the same condition as her Dad did when he was young (astigmatism or ‘lazy eye’), I took her to our GP to get a referral for an Ophthalmologist. Even then, we still had no fears about her vision because she was always pointing out birds far away or could point to the bunny in her book when we asked her too. To be honest, it never even crossed my mind that there could be a problem with her sight. I just thought her eye was lazy because of weak muscles.
Our First Ophthalmologist Appointment
We were referred to an amazing eye doctor who specializes in children, called Dr Lam. Many Perth Mum’s are familiar with Dr Lam – and it turned out he was my husband’s eye doctor when he was a kid! Let me just say HE IS WONDERFUL! I always want to hug him after each visit. So, at our first visit, Jaxxi had to be given eye drops which would dilate her pupils so Dr Lam could see right back into her eye easily. Jaxxi, being a freshly turned 1 year old, had no concept of the benefit and the idea of a stranger putting wet things in her eye was vehemently refused. Lucky me had to hold her down and pry her eye lid open for the drops to be administered. Back in the waiting room with my child who looked like she had just taken LSD with her giant pupils, we were called into Dr Lams office. After some little tests he surprised me with details of just how bad Jaxxi’s eye sight really was! She was +4.5 in her left eye and +4.0 in her right eye. For those who don’t know what this means, she was terribly long sighted (could not see things close up). To put it in perspective, my Grandma who is short sighted (can’t see far away) goes the other way on the scale but only to -2! She would need to be -4 to be equivalent to Jaxxi! Glasses, along with some patching were going to be the solution. But that was to only get eyes ready for SURGERY! Wait, WHAT? My little baby needs her eyes cut into?! The surgery was only to straighten her eyes. But the glasses were going to improve her vision – there wasn’t a surgery available for her sight and there never will be. As you can see, I only thought her wonky eyes were a problem. I was blindsided (probably not the most appropriate accidental pun) with the issue of her vision!
Glasses & Patching
A week after her visit, her glasses were ready! As soon as I put them on her, she was looking around and smiling, confused by the amazing clear world that met her! I mentioned before how she could see pictures in her books – but her Doctor explained to me that while Jaxxi could see details up close perfectly clear, it would only take a few hours before her eyes would strain and begin to go fuzzy, so by the end of the day her vision would be a real struggle. This meant her glasses needed to be worn all day, every day! Day 1 was a bit of a challenge to keep them on. The only thing we could do was hold onto her and when she reached for them, we distracted her by beginning to run and jump around. Weird (and physically demanding!) but it was the only thing that worked. We began patching for one hour a day. This meant we covered the good eye, to make the super wonky left eye work harder, eventually strengthening and straightening. The patching was a little difficult at first because it took away her coordination, but she got there in the end!
From her first visit, it was another 7 months before she was ready for surgery. It was only a few weeks before her 2nd birthday and I was 7 months pregnant! Surgery day came – Jaxxi and I were at the hospital by 7am. She wasn’t allowed to eat and could only have small drinks. I had her dressed in her favorite pajamas, and packed her beloved Lambie & Bear. Finally our turn came and I was given a gown, hat and delightful shoe covers to wear because I was allowed to go in with her and hold her until she was put to sleep. Ok, cool. It would be just like night time cuddles and she would just be put to sleep in my arms. WRONG. Jaxxi had her Lambie & Bear and we were enjoying a lovely cuddle. Then the gas make came over to her and she was suddenly possessed! It was a million times worse than the eye drops. In a frantic mess, I was being yelled at to hold her tighter and pin her down while they forced the mask on her face. Slowly, she was defeated and began to calm down and drift off until she was snoring. I placed her on the table, gave her a kiss and said ‘Sweet Dreams’. ‘Oh, she won’t have any dreams’ said the anesthesiologist. PIPE DOWN MATE! I don’t need my bubble burst when I just held my terrified child and made her go through that. I walked out the theatre and was escorted back to the waiting room, where my husband was waiting for me. I have NEVER worked so hard to keep my tears in. I told myself to just wait until I got back to Steve. I managed to squeak ‘I’m Ok’ when the nurse asked how I was. Steve heard her screams all the way from the waiting room! Now we just had to wait. It would only take about 1.5 hours and we would be able to take her home later that day. Kids as young as Jaxxi cope with these things extremely well. Before I carry on, I just want to mention the Mums (and I know a few) that go through countless operations with their child. My heart broke for them, having to do what I just did but on a more frequent basis. We are very lucky the reason for Jaxxi’s surgery was a minor fixable condition. I couldn’t help but find myself thinking of the parents who were and still are, dealing with much bigger health issues within their child.
Steve and I were taken to the recovery room to wait for Jaxxi to wake up. Then, I heard her. I heard Jaxxi frantically screaming. She sounded so afraid. I jumped up but I had to wait for the nurse to come get me. Finally she did and I sped in. Apparently, the way a child goes to sleep before a surgery is usually the way they come out it. I would have appreciated that little tidbit before she woke up! Jaxxi was completely delirious and had no idea where she was, or that I was even holding her. The nurses let me jump up into the bed with her and the only thing that calmed her down was an icy-pole. TYPICAL! She dopeily licked it, with her eyes shut. It reminded me of when I would try and drunkenly eat a kebab after a night out – eyes shut, mouth wide and tongue out. Finally we were able to go sit in the recovery room for about an hour. They gave me her medicine and off home we went. Jaxxi slept the whole way home and then all night until the next morning, except for one small wake-up to have a drink and some more pain medicine. When she woke up, she was Jaxxi again! Happy. Bouncy. Excited. She was literally standing in her cot, jumping up and down. I could not believe how quick she recovered, just like they said! I mean, this kid just had her eye muscles cut, trimmed and restitched! We went back to the doctor and he was really happy. Now we just had to continue with the glasses.
2 Years Later
We continued with our visits, Jaxxi graduated to bigger glasses and her prescription improved! She got all the way down to +2.5 and +2.0! It was an impressive improvement! Last week was our most recent visit and unfortunately, her eye sight has basically reverted to where we started in her bad eye, shooting all the way back up to +4! Her other eye saw a rise too. It was disappointing because we had two years of steady improvement, but apparently her vision can fluctuate. This means a NEW pair of glasses, making the ones we had just purchased 3 months ago obsolete! If you follow me on Instagram, you would’ve heard all about how hectic our last visit was! They whipped the drops out for the first time since our initial visit. YAY. SURPRISE EYE DROP ATTACK! I thought holding a 16 month old down was hard…holding a very determined 3 year old down was almost impossible, especially when she was trying to pull my hair to get out of my grip! We also successfully scared every other kid in the packed waiting room who were next to go into the same room we just came out of. I even heard one timid kid ask his Mum, ‘Do I have to get drops too?’. I then had a very lovely lady next to me try help Jaxxi (and myself) stop crying by saying ‘My daughter had an operation yesterday and she isn’t crying!’. Well lady, your daughter is 4 years older than mine and well, SHUT UP! It was a day of shit going wrong in true motherhood form. But, after picking out her brand new big girl glasses and a dose of fries from Maccas, we all felt much better.
So now we just wait and see, and keep up our visits and hope her eyes get better again. The aim of the game is to have her wearing glasses at school, but only during the time in the classroom. If you notice your child has eyes turning in, or may be getting headaches near the end of the day, I would suggest having a little chat to your GP and you can go from there.