Emerie Surgery #2 Update

With an opening in the doctor’s schedule for Emerie’s upcoming surgery, we pushed it up to today instead of the following Tuesday. The first procedure in June corrected her blurred vision by conducting a lensectomy and removing the cataracts in her left eye. The surgery then added a new lens and we’ve worked with patching to improve her eye use.

Today’s surgery, called an eye recession and resection, focuses on the muscles that control her left eye and will correct the lazy eye effects still hindering her. This is not considered a cosmetic surgery; while it repairs the look of a lazy eye and makes it less noticeable, it more importantly encourages her brain to use the damaged eye more and improves its focus and function. That is far more important than simply making it less visible to others, although that is a perk! The exterior eye muscle will be loosened and the interior one tightened to draw the eye in and minimize the wandering. The procedure is less invasive than the prior one but does result in a red, irritated eye for a couple of days.

Such a big girl at dinner!

There is a possibility she will need a third surgery in the future to do the same correction, as lazy eyes often shift back to some extent. With the nature of her eye issue, this is something that can be likely, but we won’t know for a while and it doesn’t happen to everyone. For now, straightening things out will hopefully assist her brain in using the bad eye even more than it currently has. We will continue with two hours of patching (of the stronger eye) each day and hope visibility improves.

Being silly with dad while the meds kick in.
Getting some early morning steps in

As I wrote this, Dr. Winkle came out with an update that everything went well and she is in recovery. She went back with him about 7:40 and was done by 8:25. Pretty quick! Just enough time to get donuts… after another hour we headed back to post-op and helped settle her before going home for the day.

Emerie was much more active this time around, so we wandered around the lobby when we checked in, she even helped me with my purse. Back in the pre-op area she did not want to sit still or be contained, even with the Versed medicine. In typical Emerie style, she spit some of that medicine right back in Craig’s face as he wrestled to give it to her. He can tell you that it doesn’t taste very good. She eventually became woozy from it, but still wanted to move around. Last time she just snuggled!

After her meds she sucked down a tiny cup of water. That plastic cup entertained her for a good 15 minutes, making her giggle as it crinkled against her teeth. It made for some silly pictures (see below!). She would not let the nurse take her forehead temperature, fought the anesthesiologist on checking her heart and lungs, and decided the pulse finger machine was permanently hers. In fact, the pulse machine went back with her into the operating room because she was literally not giving it up. She also got to walk back there with the doctor, not a nurse like last time.

I made the mistake of sipping my coffee thermos in front of her that was not appreciated, especially with the no food or drink rule before a surgery with anesthesia. Mental note for next time: don’t do that in front of her!

The dog walkers took Kalli and Koda for some adventuring this morning while we were out, hoping to tire them enough for calm puppies the rest of the day while Emerie settles in. Harper and Reagan get nanny and grandma playtime while I snuggle with Peanut.

For now, we are home. She was much happier in post-op than last time around. Instead of upset and crying, she was snuggly and very sleepy. She slept on the car ride home and is now totally out on my lap in the nursery.

Thank you everyone for the prayers and encouraging words for Miss Emerie. ❤

Busy Days and Eye Update

The past few weeks have proved to be busy and full of activity. With family (and extra hands) in town for a bit, the girls get to explore and adventure a little more than normal, whether that is out and about in Anchorage or simply playing out in the backyard.

A few other developments- we’ve implemented a mild time out time for hitting. At the moment Reagan is the champ on this, although prior to her it was Harper, so I believe it will continue to rotate. Even when you use the “mom voice” and scold, they will still go right back and hit again. We are working on that…I’m sure slow and steady will eventually win that race. That, or great patience and repetition!

The new backyard play place is a total hit. At first everyone was a bit hesitant about the big kid slide but that time has passed. Reagan will trust fall straight off of it if you aren’t looking, and while Harper and Emerie were a bit more timid on the solo sliding, they will occasionally keep you on your toes.

It impresses me how quickly they’ve mastered climbing it in such a short amount of time. They scramble up the smaller slide, climb onto it without help, and even slip off the older kiddo ladder back to the ground, higher than their feet can touch!

No more daytime bottles!

This is a big one. At seventeen months old, we finally broke the daytime bottle routine. It was quite the battle to implement sippy cups- we tried multiple different types before finding one that really clicked. For the longest time they just weren’t interested in them and wanted a bottle. Interestingly enough, we aren’t even on heavy flow for the bottles we still use, and only on a size 3 nipple. We tried to size up but they didn’t like it. This past week Grandma Sue and Papa Lon taught everyone how to use the straw type, and now we have two different sets that work. They also have a mild obsession with adult water bottles…if they find one, the screaming, rage fest begins over who gets to tow it around.

It feels quite odd not having bottles to wash alllll the time. After over a year of doing it constantly (and I mean constantly), it is strangely freeing. Once the girls get up in the morning, they get a regular breakfast and then sippy cups as they desire until lunch time. After lunch and naps they don’t even seem to notice that they no longer want a bottle, and sippy cups are out and used as needed. Now if we could be this successful on naps…we’d be doing great!

We are still doing bottles for bedtime routine, trying to get about 8oz (or more) of breast milk down everyone (they don’t want to drink the supplemental formula as much at nighttime). The 6am bottle will also continue for the foreseeable future; it is the only way everyone ends up back in their cribs until morning wake up. Since we still haven’t mastered everyone sleeping in their beds again, this reset is quite important for us to get ready for work, maybe get a short, kidless nap in before the day starts, or have a little quiet, adult (ahem…Netflix…) time.

Emerie Eye Update

At the last follow up appointment for Emerie, the doctor informed us that a second surgery will be necessary. It is less invasive as her first one and will tighten the eye muscles that control her wandering eye. While it is currently scheduled for early October, we are on the weight list for earlier if anything opens up in their schedule. Healing time should be less than the last one and be less painful.

This procedure won’t really correct her eyesight, but it will help her eye focus straighter and potentially help with the dislike of her glasses. Eye patching is becoming more of a stress to her the past month, with Emerie trying to pull it off if you aren’t paying close attention, even with the tape on it. In true excellent Nanny Chris style, she came up with a solution to the glasses wearing during patch time- tape them on too! So far that is working relatively well (and better than no glasses time at all) and we are able to get a few hours in.

Miss Em un-enthusiastically looking at the camera

How does Emerie like it? I’ll let you decide…note the adorable bow over everything…

Thankfully she is a good sport most of the time. This past week Grandma Sue made it her mission to get those glasses to stay on her face; a hard mission but so far so good. She gets more one-on-one time and every kid needs that!

I’m not entirely sure how much of a difference this is all doing on her vision, since the eye is still wandering, but ensuring we patch each day is important and we try to make sure we get some time in. Only time will tell, or once she’s old enough to tell us whether she can see or not. And we aren’t too far from that…everyone is rapidly learning new words already.

Lastly, we may again be in the thick of teething. The past few days everyone is super drooling and grumpy, even with all the extra visitors coming to play. Each set of incoming teeth are consistent, with everyone having two molars in on the left side (top and bottom) and one in on the right with another peeking through the gums. So many teeth!

This long weekend’s mission is a new shed in the backyard and playtime for the kiddos. Fingers crossed the crazy smoke will lift and the air will clear for a more pleasant outside adventures.

Emerie Eye Update: Glasses

Big Emerie Smile

The big day is here. Miss Emerie’s glasses are in; now the real fun begins…trying to get her to actually WEAR them.

We went to Cook Inlet Eyewear, down on 2nd Avenue, a couple weeks back and ordered two pairs of kid glasses. If you haven’t shopped around for pediatric eye wear before, the glasses made nowadays are really cool. They are bendable, some sides snap on and off easily instead of breaking off, and there are a ton of cute colors and styles. Not to mention…they are SO tiny and adorable!!

I was really impressed with the ladies at Cook Inlet. They are very prepared to assist with young kiddos and had a toy box out and ready for tiny tot entertainment. While she explained what type of glasses and lenses would be best for a one-year old, Emerie played with toy dinosaurs and Star Wars figurines; throwing them on the floor and wreaking the usual havoc while making a mess. We also discussed her prescription, which contains a left bifocal in it to help with focusing. Never thought my kiddo would have bifocal before me!

We anticipate a bit of sibling rivalry will occur with Emerie’s new look, so we opted for a second set as a backup. Impressively enough, there were several purple options to choose from, so she now has two different types of purples to keep her fashion trend going!

The past week she has not been thrilled that another thing is on her face in addition to the two hours of daily patching. She’s become much more cranky about the daily patching too; we are unsure why as things were going pretty well with it in July. Nanny Chris greatly helps us with this routine everyday, with “patch time” usually before lunch, around 9:30 or 10 to noon (when she cooperates!). It removes some stress on us later in the day having it done already.

Harper and Reagan now come to their sister’s rescue and help peel it off. It’s a full team effort if you aren’t paying attention every second. Not sure if that’s a good thing for sister bonding, or bad since we have to put on another one!

So far the longest Em has worn the glasses continuously is about 40 minutes. She either remembers they are still on her face and pulls them down, or one of her sisters pries them off. Similarly to the patch, you just have to find distractions so she forgets they are on. Several times I’ve caught Harper pulling Emerie around by the glasses around her neck. Still working on that…

We gave Harper and Reagan strawberry styled sunglasses (thanks Megan!) to wear in lieu of glasses, hoping that they will stop bugging Emerie when she has them on. They like to wear the sunglasses and put them on and off their faces. It’s pretty cute. When I tried this a couple months back, they immediately pulled them off. Now they like to look around while wearing them, at least for a couple minutes at a time.

Emerie’s eye redness continues to slowly vanish and she isn’t rubbing it in irritation nearly as often as right after surgery. The eye still trails a good amount of the time, but hopefully once she wears them more frequently it will improve. We have another appointment in September to evaluate her progress and see what else, if anything, needs to be done. There is potential that a second surgery will be necessary to realign the eye muscles and fix the trailing, but we won’t know that for a little while longer and are hopefully it will resolve itself.

So for now, we continue to put glasses on, she takes them off, we put them on again, and the cycle continues! We are not making a big deal out of her wearing them or pulling them off, hoping eventually she’ll just get used to it. Craig also ordered another back piece to see if it will be more comfortable, and we are still waiting for the second, backup pair to get here. If anyone has any parental advice to getting her to cooperate better, we are all ears (or eyes?)! If you want to come over and have baby time and play and entertain her during patch time, we’d be up for that too!!

We also greatly appreciate all of you that are still praying for her healing and success. ❤ ❤ ❤

Surgery Day

As I start writing this blog, Miss Emerie is in surgery at Alaska Surgery Center with Dr. Winkle, for her left eye lensectomy with placement of intraocular lens.

We were given a pager just like one you receive while waiting for an open dinner table at a restaurant. Sisters are home with the nanny and Grandma.

We had to be at the center by 6 AM and followed instructions of no food or water after midnight, but a bottle of breast milk was allowable before 3:30 AM (four hours prior to surgery). I think it’s really cool that breastmilk doesn’t count as a liquid the same as water does. Typically kids are a little less accommodating when they are hungry; they don’t really care if they are having surgery.

Emerie was a pro this morning and drank a bottle with Craig at about 3:15. Harper and Reagan slept through the whole night without a peep, getting a quick bottle right before we headed out. We loaded up about 5:50 with a wide awake but happy Emerie.

In the waiting room, playing with daddy

After checking in and finishing all the paperwork, Emerie was given Versed to make her calm and drowsy. It worked like a charm! She snuggled and played with her wubbanub and stuffed unicorn. We also broke out her purple moose blanket! She giggled a bit in her “high”, but overall was semi blob like, very different than our normal Emerie!

Happy, high baby

In true triplet style, Dr. Winkle used a purple pen to mark the correct eye! I don’t know if that was intentional or random, but he does have the girls’ colors on their charts.

Total surgery time lasted about 90 minutes. Dr. Winkle came out and told us she did great and everything in her eye was exactly what he had anticipated. He also said this issue was present at birth but the leak that caused the cataract blurriness just occurred later.

It took another almost forty minutes before we went back to post op, which started making me nervous! Of course, the nurse said Emerie was raising hell about the protective eye patch and absolutely refused to leave it on. Sounds about right. We have to continually patch for about a week to protect the eye and incision from infection. Luckily the doctor did the stitches inside the eyelid, which is standard in little kids that want to scratch and rub it.

Post surgery

She was very loopy and tugging at her eye when we got back to post op. She was on a ventilator during surgery so her little cry is completely hoarse and so very sad sounding. After some snuggles and major baby rage, we figured being home would help her relax and loaded up.

We made it home and successfully put on one of her daily patches. I am writing this in the dark in the nursery as she fidgety sleeps on me. Hopefully she’ll be feeling a bit better after a nap. It helps that the house is quiet. Harper and Reagan are headed to some playtime with Daddy and Kerstin picked up the dogs out to burn off some energy.

Thank you everyone for the thoughts, prayers and kind words this week and especially today. It’s going to be a long day but will all be worth it when our tiny girl’s vision improves.

I spy with my little eye(s)…

Since Emerie’s cataract diagnosis, it’s been greatly on our minds if Harper and Reagan would share this issue and require the same procedure. Because they are identicals, we know there’s high probability that all three will share lots of things, good and bad. The doctor told us it could go either way since there is no way to know exactly when her cataracts developed.

We spent our Friday afternoon at the eye doctor, hanging out with both girls in an office less than equipped for 70+ degree weather (that’s hot for here ok!). Emerie had a fun one-on-one afternoon with Miss Chris while we took the other two in.

Unlike their sister, both girls were quite cooperative for the doctor, with Harper only making one peep from the eye drops. Reagan didn’t fuss at all and actually cooperated with great eye contact with Dr. Winkle. She was a pro!

While we waited for the girls’ eyes to dilate and the doctor tended to another patient, we entertained the girls with Baby Shark and Patty-cake. They explored the exam room and tried to climb up the exam chairs. They also enjoyed us sliding and spinning around on the doctor’s chair and some brief toddler dancing. I mean how cute is this…

Both eye exams proved what we were hoping for. Neither Harper or Reagan have any visible cataracts and both present with good vision right now. What a load of stress off our shoulders!

Harper was a little less excited at the checkup, and after further analyzing she has enough of a astigmatism that she is right on the edge of needing glasses. As the doctor explained it to us, her eyes are shaped more like a football than the roundness of a soccer ball. It’s something to monitor as she grows, but she doesn’t need any correction yet. With some luck she might not need it at all! Kids often outgrow it so fingers crossed.

Reagan also has a minor astigmatism, although less significant than Harper’s. All in all, it looks like Emerie will be the kiddo in glasses as a toddler and we’ll recheck the other two on their next birthday.

Emerie continues to wear a patch an hour per day. We’ve mildly slacked on that time the last two days with her cold making her unbearably upset during patch time. When she doesn’t have the cold, distractions keep her from full baby rage and time passes quickly. Post surgery patch time moods should also improve, as she will be able to see out of the corrected eye better.

A few other fun things with the Douglets this week. Emerie started choking on a cracker (not fun) but when Craig tried to get it out of her mouth, she chomped down really hard on his finger. Would you ever believe this adorable face would do such a thing?! Silly baby.

Big Emerie smiles

Outside playtime is a new daily joy, especially with the gorgeously sunny week we are having! The girls have taken to it quite well and some wonderful coworkers gave us several new toys, like a playhouse! Everyone still likes to eat rocks, grass, dirt, and anything else available outside, but they also like to open and close the playhouse windows and climb on the little tike slide. Emerie has even figured out how to climb it with her shoes on and then go down on her butt, unassisted. When did they get so grown up?!

Playtime with friends

They also run three different directions at all times, so outside time can be stressful! Everyone is getting used to shoe wearing since we are outside now. At first they walked around like dogs in new booties or just stood still looking at us; now they are pros and run around in their little summer jellies.

Saturday morning the three discovered escape from the parents is possible through the tiny dog door in the dining room. I didn’t think they would figure that one out so quick…thanks a lot animals…Harper made it through in no time and was running across the deck by the time I made it outside!

It appears teamwork is starting to occur, like this video proves! They are started to briefly work together on things (when they aren’t smacking each other with toys), so I know we aren’t too far from the trying to knock the playpen down in a triple escape effort.

Post Lenticonus Cataract

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!