Emerie Summer Eye Update

Almost a year ago today we were headed to the surgery center for Emerie’s first eye surgery, to remove her cataract and hopefully improve use of her left eye. Today we are back for her third eye surgery (second strabismus procedures), and fourth overall surgery, in 365 days. It’s been quite a year and little did we know what was ahead of us as we walked into the center last June, but we’ve made it through with resilience and minimal scrapes and bruises.

Unlike last year, medical processes have changed a little to accommodate the worldwide pandemic. We’ve waited several months for this procedure while the medical field responded to the current COVID-19 crisis; i.e. it wasn’t on the approved, non-emergent surgery list. For us, this meant continuing to patch a few hours a day and convince Emerie to wear her glasses as much as possible, which is easier than this time last year, but still a fight.

All doctors appointments this spring only allowed one parent to attend, wearing a mask, with an attempt to keep all patients far apart to lessen the risk of spreading illness. The specialist appointment in late April was encouraging, with Dr. Winkle noting that he would determine which eye muscle to tighten once he was in there. Her eye was trending inward about 20%, as opposed to wandering outward as it did prior to October’s adjustment.

Unfortunately, when I took Emerie to her pre-op appointment last week, her left eye alignment is now trending inward at 50%, a significant change in about a month. This means that both muscles will likely need adjustment and he has shifted his prior surgical plan accordingly. When I asked why such a change in a short time period, he said sometimes this happens and there’s really no good explanation. If he had never done the first strabismus surgery, her eye would still not be aligned correctly (since I asked!). It also means that she is on the more severe scale for pediatric cases and will likely require additional surgeries going forward. Needless to say, I did not leave that visit feeling as optimistic as when we arrived.

Like a pro- post nose swab

All surgical procedures require a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of going in. I expected some screaming rage at the nose swab and had snacks and juice at hand as well as Bear and a wubbanub, but she did great! It was unexpectedly easy- we didn’t have to get out of the car and the nurse came down to our parking spot for the whole thing. She explained swabbing adults was more extensive than younger kids, and just swabbed her nostril and talked sweetly, evening producing a half toddler smile before heading back into the office. We found out right before surgery that her test returned negative, as we expected.

Emerie was ready to take on the day this morning. Little did she know where we were headed, but after Craig pulled her out of the nursery she was chatty and running around, even with our shhhhh’ing to not wake the other two.

We’ve had three prior surgeries at the surgery center and yet I’ve never noticed the pre-op playroom before today. Needless to say, Emerie much preferred exploring the enclosed room full of activities rather than be confined to my lap in the tiny pre-op space. Only one of us could go back into the area due to COVID-19 rules, so Craig waited in the waiting room out front while I went back with her. I gave her the purple, surgery monkey to cuddle with, which is almost as big as her, and she snuggled it, “changed” its diaper, and showed it the puppy book.

Bracelets in her sisters colors

After the Versed kicked in she wanted to read her book on my lap, under her moose blanket. Adorably, she was super ticked off that she couldn’t shut! the door IN the book and kept repeating it. When I informed her we couldn’t shut the door, she told me no.

Also, the CUTEST thing ever….she wore two bracelets for her adventure today and look what colors they are! One pink and one blue, i.e. one in Harper’s color and one in Reagan’s. I melted when I noticed that! She is definitely the jewelry wearer of the three.

Dr. Winkle explained that the procedure would take a little longer the second time around, probably about 45 minutes versus the 25 previously, usually due to minimal scar tissue. He came out with an update about 40 minutes after I put her in the wheelchair and they wheeled her off.

The doctor noted that he was pleased to see part of the reason for the eye drift and decided to only tighten the outer muscle and not mess with the interior one as originally planned. He said she developed a type of scar tendon, about 5mm long, that was pulling the eye inward. This is actually good news, because he removed it and tighten the outer muscle, which was simplier than having to work on both sides. Hopefully this will keep her straight for a while.

Another hour passed before our surgical buzzer went off, allowing me to go back and see her. We actually saw Dr. Winkle come back out after his next procedure, looking surprised to see we were still waiting. The nurse told me later that they gave her a different type of sedation so she was coming out of it slower than her prior surgeries. I went back to find her still out. It took another 20 minutes or so until she started to come out of it. The interesting thing is that she caught me by surprise; she was out one second and trying to roll off the bed in quite a fluster the next. This is more-or-less how our naps go…fully asleep one second, screaming and wanting up the next.

Now that she is a bit older and more talkative since her surgeries at 19 months and 21 months old, she can better communicate her feelings and it is intriguing to see. Her first word was owie, of course, and reaching for her eye. The nurse asked if she wanted a yummy and handed her a lime popsicle, which for a few minutes fully distracted her pain and she laid on the bed, eyes closed, sucking on the popsicle calmly. At some point, about halfway through the popsicle, she noticed that the paper towel previously wrapped around it was on the sheet and frantically commanded trash! at me several times, then went back to owie and booboo, pointing to her eye. And repeat.

Eventually we made it home, after she threw away her popsicle wrapper in the trash without my assistance, had her blanket tucked on her, monkey and binkie in hand in the car, and we did our usual surgical routine of taking a short nap to settle and let more Advil kick in. She definitely went to sleep easier today than back in December and didn’t fight it or cry. As I write this, she’s down for her normal nap, although her eyes on the crib camera tell me she is fighting this one hard while Harper and Reagan are both out.

Thank you, everyone, for the prayers. Our littlest triplet was very brave today and behaved great! <3<3<3

Two Year Eye Update!

Last week we took Emerie to her eye specialist visit, that was conveniently scheduled out far enough that it wasn’t canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 closures.

Such a big girl!

The doctor’s office required I wear a mask and only one parent accompany the child. The one-to-one ratio is pretty fantastic and when the kiddo is well behaved, it’s even better! Emerie was a pro and you can tell that she likes Dr. Winkle. Not only did she sit very still on my lap while he checked her eye, but he also managed to get a few smiles, almost chuckles, out of her with some animals sounds. She took out on of the tools on the eye machine and nicely handed him his “toy” upon request.

The good news. She was great at her appointment and the eye patching is strengthening her eye. The bad news? Her eye muscles will require another surgery later this spring. Typically the over correction of the eye muscles accommodates the loosening over time, so that the eye ends up looking nice and straight. Since October’s surgery, her eye still trends inward a little more than it should and by now it over correction should be fixed. Dr. Winkle noted he would decide once she’s in surgery if the inside muscle requires loosening or the outside should be tightened.

I am hopeful that much of this quarantining will be passed us before she goes in, so her immune system doesn’t have to fight off any other potential invaders. Current rules also state that only one person is allowed back with a kiddo and that can be tough with a very unsettled and in pain toddler.

Harper and Reagan received their two year eye checkups with the specialist this week, more-or-less to confirm that no strabismus issues are present like their sister. The doctor did not appreciate that they were dressed alike, but did think it was funny! Both passed with flying colors and no longer need specialist eye care. Going forward, unless something changes, we will just monitor their eyes at the pediatrician. Great news!

Not often her mood with the patch on, but big smiles for Em!

Harper did well with the dilation drops and didn’t fight the doctor for the visit. She sat still on my lap and he examined those beautiful blue eyes without too much effort. (Random fact: light colored eyes like blue react easier to dilation!). Reagan, on the other hand, feels the way Harper feels about the dentist. Screaming, crying, trying to hold those eyes shut. She did not appreciate the drops and had her eye exam with arms held firmly down by Craig and her eyelids pried open by the doctor. Maybe we should be more appreciative that Emerie doesn’t respond to all the doctor visits like this.

They both had dilated eyes for the rest of the afternoon, but still enjoyed playing out in the sun and going for a family walk.

Bright light didn’t stop afternoon playtime.

All in all, things are pretty good in terms of the Douglet eyeballs. We will continue to patch Emerie two to three hours per day and encourage use of her weaker eye, much to her dismay. The next plan is to purchase another pair of glasses with larger lenses and see if she likes them more than her current ones or if they improve her mood. We are also thinking outside the box…maybe getting a yellow pair instead of her usual purple! Either way, we know they will be cute on her.

Keep those prayers coming; and we will keep you all updated on her progress.

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.