Tomorrow is a big day.
KJ was diagnosed with intermittent esotropia, a form of strabismus, at 6 months of age. I first noticed his eyes turning inward at 6 weeks, and we have been seeing a pediatric ophthalmologist since he turned 4 months old. Now I feel like we are old friends.
Many moms (including my own) told me early on that I had nothing to worry about. His eyes were fine. Crossed eyes are common. They will straighten out on their own. A few friends also told me they were sure their own kids were cross-eyed during their first year, and then all of a sudden they weren’t. But the frequency of KJ’s eye-crossing and the degree to which the eyes turned inward were a big concern for me. This was different than the occasional eye-crossing we had seen in our daughter as a newborn. And so, I brought it up to our pediatrician at his four-month well check. She referred us to a specialist saying, “It may be nothing, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
At the first mention of surgery back in February, I fell apart in the doctor’s office. I was sad, scared, nervous and helpless. And the doctor said to me, “Mom, you are doing everything you can for your baby. Because you detected this early, we can save his vision.” Apparently when babies are that young, their eyes are still developing connections to the brain, and when babies have strabismus, oftentimes babies will begin to prefer to use one eye over the other. The eye preference can shut down the unused eye’s connections to the brain, sometimes causing amblyopia (a.k.a. “lazy eye”) and may also make binocular vision (using both eyes) more difficult in the future.
We began patch therapy at 6 months, patching one eye per day for four wakeful hours a day, alternating the patches each day. The goal was to have him continue using both eyes (not developing an eye preference), thereby saving his vision. All this from the guy who went to medical school. I don’t know anything about science — I was an English major.
I spent a few extra bucks on the cute patches to make myself feel better. As it turns out, I am vain and these cute little designs help me get through the day.
Now that we have been through eight months of eye tests, patch therapy, and have had enough time to process news of the condition and procedure, we (as in the parents) are ready. In fact, when I received the call this week that there was a cancellation and we could move up the surgery one week, I was thrilled. One less week of anticipation and the surgery looming over our heads. Let’s get this show on the road.
And so tomorrow is the big day. The surgery itself is only about a half hour, and the doctor promised to have us bedside immediately after so that KJ will see us when he comes out of anesthesia. There will be a series of follow-up appointments (the ophthalmologist will actually follow KJ’s progress until he is school-aged), and though we will see a change immediately, we will not know if he will need an additional surgery until at least six weeks after the procedure. There is an 80% success rate, so we are praying for good results.
Here’s to our little trooper. I’m sure he’ll be flirting with the nurses in recovery.