Sunday, April 22, 2012
Elizabeth was born cockeyed. No disrespect intended to her state of mind. She has a common vision defect which causes her left eye to wander occasionally outward.
It's a pretty subtle thing, and I never even noticed it. Pam did, though, and when we went to the pediatric opthamologist, he just said, "Oh yeah."
The condition is called strabismus. Its common name is "lazy eye," but according to Wikipedia, "Other names include 'squint,' 'crossed eye,' 'google eye,' 'boss eye', 'cock eye', 'wonk eye', 'cod eye,' 'derby eye,' 'waz eye,' and 'wok eye.'
Nobody wants to hear any of those from the other kids on the first day of school, but the real reason for getting strabismus treated is that it impairs depth perception, which leads to clumsiness and lack of confidence. Worse yet, the brain may begin ignoring signals from the wayward eye entirely, effectively leaving it blind.
Under doctor's orders, we tried patches and then drops as a means of blanking out or fuzzing up the good eye and forcing E's brain to exercise the muscles around the troublesome one. None of that worked, so last week we bit our lips and took our tiny one to the hospital for surgery. The doctor had explained he needed to loosen the muscles on the outsides of both eyes to make it easier for the brain to align them.
I drew the short straw and went into the operating room to be with E until she was knocked out. We were both cool until the anesthetist put the mask over her face and she began to struggle and cry. My job was to comfort and restrain her for the seconds it took for her to go to sleep.
Those were some of the hardest moments of my life. She was so small and so scared, these people were strangers, and she trusted me. When her eyes finally closed and she relaxed onto the table, I choked out an incoherent "Do your best" to the masked marvels who were already going to work and hurried from the room feeling like I'd let everybody down.
The whole thing only took 45 minutes. The doctor told us it went perfectly, which was good to know because her eyes were shockingly bloodshot and she was now a bit cross-eyed. In the post-op exam a couple of days later, the doc said this was exactly as it should be. The loosened muscles will grow stronger in the weeks ahead and pull both eyes back to center.
He also said something else. "My team does 20 of these procedures a day, and they were really impressed with the way you and Elizabeth handled yourselves in the operating room. You really made an impression on them."
I am proud of us both. Even better, as you can see above, she's still smiling at me.