When you hear the word cataract, do you think of fading eye sight affecting someone like a grandparent, or generally someone your parents age or older? I definitely did, until now.
I never considered the idea that one of my children, at a year of age no less, could be presenting with pediatric cataract eye sight issues.
Emerie has had a bit of a lazy, wandering left eye the past few months. We forgot to ask about it at her year appointment, but had a follow up a couple weeks later for her ears. The pediatrician immediately referred us to a pediatric ophthalmologist to determine the underlying cause. After two appointments, the doctors confirm she indeed has a cataract on the lens of her left eye, known as a Post Lenticonus Cataract. As explained to us, the vision in her left is clouded around the center from the cataract, sort of like wearing a dirty contact that doesn’t come out and blurs vision.
Cataracts can actually occur at any age and develop over time or be present at birth. We estimate Em started showing eye symptoms just shy of her first birthday and don’t believe she was born with them or that they were caused by being a preemie. Harper and Reagan do not present with anything, but because they are identicals, everyone gets a checkups earlier than the typical 18 month eye exam. We have appointments scheduled for them in several weeks.
One constant reminder for myself, as we go through this new journey, is to stay optimistic. It’s a good thing we discovered it early, and all about perspective! We could dwell that it’s so terrible and scary, that she’s so young with this issue; or we can look at it as early detection gives us better odds at fixing her eyesight for her life, even if there will be a bit of a struggle to get where we need to be.
The first few years of life are incredibly important for eyesight. In fact, up to about age eight eyes continue to develop before leveling out for adulthood. In addition to the cataract, Emerie’s brain is teaching itself to rely on her good eye because it’s fully functional (and perfect according to the doc!). This can be even more detrimental if the problem is not fixed, and actually make her bad eye’s vision worse. Patching the good eye for a short time each day aims to slowly retrain her brain to use the other eye too; something Miss Emerie is not going to like.
The tiny patches arrived this week. In about a month we will go in for day surgery, where her clouded lens will be replaced with a new, clear one. Typically kids this young don’t receive a new lens and have to wear a contact until they are older and a new one can be inserted. In our case, the surgeon believes she is big enough and says it is better to replace hers now and we will reassess as she matures. She will also need glasses once her eye heals up. It should be quite the adventure to see how her sisters respond to something on her face. I’m told once she gets used to glasses; she won’t even tug at them, but who knows what Reagan and Harper will do!
The first day of patching went better than anticipated. In fact, Emerie did about 40 minutes with minimal fussing. I had angry, screaming Em pictured in my mind for this, so it was nice to see that with a little distraction she would forget about it for a few moments at a time. We purchased some fun, blinking light type toys that she can see better through the blurriness and that helped entertain her a bit. The key is to only bring them out during patch time so they stay exciting. The real hit was giving her a snack in each hand. Can’t pull off the eye patch when you are double fisting some vege-straws!
The second day was a bit grumpier, but we made it to the targeted hour of patch time. Once it’s on for a few minutes, distractions definitely make her more cooperative. It also helps when we put it on her correctly…and let her run around with her sisters in the living room.
Surprisingly neither Harper or Reagan seemed to notice the patch and went about their exploration/play time in the living room right along with their sister. Every few minutes Emerie would tug at the patch in irritation, but not scream about it and we made a point to shift her focus onto another toy or snack before she became mad. Hopefully we will get this new activity in our daily routine down with minimal issues.
We would appreciate prayers- most of you that know me, know I am a little weird when it comes to eye issues of any kind. This is not one of those times I can just avoid it because it makes me queasy to think about. We are hoping for the best!