Almost 18 years after Abbey’s first eye surgery at five months old, these two are back at Children’s in Birmingham for a second surgery. A surgeon removed her natural eye lens in 2003 because it was covered with a cataract impeding the development of her vision in the one eye. It was thought that some ocular tissue did not disintegrate in utero as it usually did. The development of the cataract was not congenital. One doctor said it was just a fluke, like she “got hit by lightening.” Unlike cataract surgery for an adult, a prosthetic lens was not inserted when she was five months old because she would outgrow it so quickly, requiring so many surgeries to replace it. We tried external prosthetic lenses (glasses and contact lens) when she was very young so that the vision in the one eye would develop as much as it could. That effort is an entire story itself. Her brain has adapted to the vision she has (although I do think it somehow restricts her ability to see a messy room). She wears glasses now mostly to protect her “good eye” because its vision is good, a bit of nearsightedness.
At this age, her “bad eye” acts like a “lazy eye.” So, this surgery today is a simple and common strabismus surgery for eye alignment. Without a lens, this surgery is just cosmetic and will not improve her vision, although it has the potential to with work. We are hoping with the eyes aligned, she can start wearing a contact (still with glasses to protect the good eye) and with therapy gain a little bit of vision in the bad eye.
She is nervous about surgery, is not traditionally agreeable to anything that might cause uncomfortableness, much less the least bit of pain. One would think our kids might be a little complacent about medical procedures as many times as we’ve endured such with Eli, but they were usually at home and only experienced the recovery (which was not always smooth). So, a quick prayer for the success of the surgery, for her stress level, and for their safety traveling. Although, I was there 18 years ago, I could not take off work to go this time. But, she’s in good hands.
Learning 18 years ago that our daughter would not see normally and the uncertainty of what that meant for her was the first time I felt directly vulnerable to the evils of the world. My dad had passed away unexpectedly four years earlier, and though that was difficult and is even still haunting, it did not feel like a personal attack. I was still distanced from it because it did not impact the big picture of my life directly. Abbey’s situation, I think, was God’s gentle nudge toward my awakening, laying the groundwork for weathering what was coming. Even though, at this point in my parenthood, I have endured some pretty torturous scenes within the walls of hospitals, I will still never forget watching Abbey disappear behind the OR doors; tiny in the arms of the nurse, sitting up grasping a mint green stuffed hippo, curiously looking around as they walked down the hall, little strands of her fine black hair blowing around. It was frightening, and not just the simple surgery, but the prospect of the unknown journey from that point on.
Thankfully, over the years her sight deficiency has had little impact because her brain adjusted and gets the job done. She has never had a chance to play sports, but I’m doubtful she would have any way. She is as coordinated as the average person, but uncomfortable with objects coming at her face (like in sports, or things being thrown around). She is a good reader and artist, and she drives better than some drivers I’ve seen on the roads. Putting on her makeup is a bit of a challenge, and I wonder sometimes if she can see the crumbs she leaves on the table or maybe if that is not “selective sight”, much like kids have “selective hearing.” I have always talked openly with the kids about their differences from the norm, making sure they understand that “everybody has something, even Paul.” I’ve been thankful that through the years, as far as I know, Abbey’s “crazy eye,” as we call it, has not been a huge target for malicious teasing. But, she has grown up within in one school family, within one church family, around people that have always loved her. So, as she is preparing to enter a bigger world, I hope this little bit of surgery will help her confidence concerning her outward appearance and possibly help her gain a little bit of vision that we never had any hope of her having.