Second Opinions: Better Late than Never!
I didn’t mean to get a theme going, but sometimes a theme materializes when I least expect it to. If you read my last post, you know that I struggled with a difficult vision problem (diplopia—or double vision) for 15 years because I hadn’t been told there was a surgery to correct it. Thankfully—because I moved to a new city and saw different eye care providers—I was able to have that surgery, and I’m seeing very well now. I don’t even need prescription glasses anymore.
This wasn’t the only extreme eye problem my family has dealt with. One of our daughters has severe amblyopia; it is bad enough that she is deemed legally blind in one eye.
I have vivid memories (traumatically vivid!) of the time of her diagnosis. We were living in Oklahoma City then, where my husband was stationed with the Air Force. Our daughter was very young, about 5 or 6; one day she said, “Mommy, when I cover this eye I can see just fine, but when I cover the other eye, everything is really fuzzy.” (I had often noticed that she opened one eye wider than the other, but it had never occurred to me that it might be because the other eye wasn’t working properly.)
After a cursory check with our family doctor, we got a referral to a pediatric eye specialist. We booked the first available appointment. After waiting several months, when the appointed day came, my daughter and I made the long drive to the other side of the city. (FYI: Oklahoma City is geographically one of the largest cities in the US, so that was a long drive.) Our appointment was for 2:30. We arrived early, made our way through the huge building, signed in, filled out paperwork, then settled in and waited.
By 4:30, the building began to clear out. At 5:30, when we were the very last people in the vast waiting area, my daughter’s name was finally called. We made our way to the doctor’s office. He made no attempt at a friendly greeting (which was, by the way, very un-Oklahoman of him!), then brusquely instructed my daughter to sit in the exam chair, and rudely left me to figure out where I should put myself.
He spent no more than 5 minutes examining my little girl, then turned to me and snarled, “She has severe amblyopia. It’s too late for me to do anything to help her. You should have brought her here sooner.”
“But I didn’t know,” I said.
He sneered at me and said, “This runs in families. You should have been looking for it.”
“It doesn’t run in my family,” I said, “and my husband is adopted. We don’t have any medical information on his birth family—so how could I have known?”
He offered no apology, no compassion. He just elaborated on what he’d already said: it was too late to force my daughter’s brain to look through the weak eye . . . glasses wouldn’t help . . . wearing an eye patch wouldn’t help.
I left that office feeling angrier than I’d ever been in my life. To make matters even worse, the building had been secured for the night. The hallway lights had been turned off and the doors we had entered through were now locked. We wandered blindly through the building and just as I began to panic, we found an unlocked exit door. Once outside, we had to walk halfway around the outside of the enormous building to find our car.
That was a very bad day.
I refused to take that nasty doctor’s word as final. I took my daughter to an eye doctor who prescribed glasses for her; they had a clear lens on one side and a “Coke bottle” lens on the other side. My little girl wore those tragic-looking things every day. And I made her wear an eye patch for several hours a day. To take a little of the sting out of wearing it at school, I made one that looked like the face of one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She didn’t like wearing it, but the other kids thought it was pretty cool, so at least she didn’t get teased about it.
Sadly, my efforts didn’t seem to help. And thinking about the fact that things could have been different if I’d known sooner always made me feel like a bad mother.
So imagine the thrill I felt the other night when my daughter came over for dinner and gave me some really good news. She’d been experiencing painful eye strain from using a computer all day at work, and decided to see an opthalmologist. This doctor (who, by the way, was VERY NICE) said the patch and the thick glasses probably did help. And he said the prevailing thought among experts now is to correct the weak eye with glasses: that the brain will look through it—and the eye will grow stronger. He prescribed contacts and a new pair of glasses.
My daughter will once again be wearing glasses with one ridiculously thick lens . . . and she is absolutely thrilled!
And so am I.
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