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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Quiet Contemplator's Strabismus Surgery

Let's start from the beginning. For those of you who don't know, my daughter is farsighted and has stabismus and amblyopia. WTF does that mean? She can’t see things up close and has a wonky eye that she has lost vision in.

Ok, so what is strabismus? The easiest way to explain strabismus is that it is basically a lazy eye. The eyes are not aligned properly and one or both eyes either go outward or inward of each other. My daughter's right eye drifts inward.

And what is amblyopia? Amblyopia is the loss of vision in one eye. Usually done so by the brain as a result of a medical condition, like strabismus.

Huh? Ok, so if you cross your eyes, you basically momentarily give yourself strabismus. This results in loss of depth perception and double vision. To correct the double vision, you can cover one eye. Amblyopia is basically your brain covering one eye naturally. To correct the double vision, it simply shuts off brain function to the weaker eye.

To correct both problems, you can patch the strong eye to help strengthen the weak eye. This helps the brain turn vision back on to the weaker eye (correcting the amblyopia) and can help strengthen the eye to align it (correcting the strabismus).

Unfortunately, though the patching helped repair the lost vision (amblyopia) in The Quiet Contemplator's right eye, but it did not help fix the alignment (strabismus).

Clear as mud, right? Anyway.

So TQC's strabismus surgery day came on Monday, July 23, 2012. 

Her surgery was done at St. Louis Children's Hospital by Dr. Susan Culican and it was an amazing experience from start to finish. The hospital and its staff are just amazing. They really do love what they do and it shows. We never even had a chance to ask a question because they were all answered thoroughly and understandably before we had a chance. They had a play room full of fun toys that we saw being cleaned every hour. Stickers, cool games, etc. I think TQC had so much fun there before surgery that she would request to go back!

To make things a bit easier in the hospital, we got TQC a new friend. Meet Fanny, a vintage 1985 Cabbage Patch doll:

Hi, my name is Fanny.

Once we got to the hospital, checked in and got through the paper trail of surgery prep, we introduced TQC to Fanny.

It was love at first sight.

For the next half hour or so, we just talked to doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, etc. as they came in to talk us through things and we waited for the big event to start. I requested to take TQC back to surgery and be present as they put her under anesthesia. Thankfully, our anesthesiologist was Ok with this. So, when it was go time, I carried TQC back to the surgical suite while Fanny hitched a ride on the gurney (very funny to onlookers).

Once in the suite, I talked to the TQC and told her about the cool lights overhead, pointed out that everyone was in their pajamas like her and kind of helped her take everything in. We then set her on the surgery table and put her gas mask on (on which she had chosen her gas flavor of root beer. ha!). The mask freaked her out a little bit but I held her and started singing, "One little, two little, three little indians" over and over again and she calmed down and went under without a peep. The surgeons complimented my rendition of the "Indians" song. Then I gave TQC a kiss and left the room so the Drs. could do their job. It was hard but I will never be more grateful than for having been able to go through that with her rather than have her carted off by strangers just to be wheeled into a scary room without her mommy to be gased forcefully because she was so scared.

After they put her under, I made my way back to our room where ADD Daddy was nervously waiting. We got some food and pretended to be busy until they came to talk to us when surgery was over. UGH!

Maybe 45 minutes later, the doctor was in our room telling us surgery was over and TQC was in recovery. WOW! I can't get a damn email out in 45 minutes and these people can fix my daughter's eye and stitch her up. I am a slug.

When I requested to take TQC back to surgery and put her under, I also requested to be there when she came out of anesthesia. Since this is kind of an ugly time, hospitals usually wait for the child to be alert and with it before parents are allowed in. They came and got me and though it was ugly and hard, I am glad I was the one holding her and comforting her through it and not a stranger. TQC cried and was really out if it for maybe a half hour. Her eye itched and she was in a lot of pain. They gave her some more morphine and she started to calm down a bit.

Sad girl and mama in recovery.

Once TQC was a bit more with it, they sent us all back to our room. She was still sort of confused and out of it but was starting to get her bearings again. Once she came around, we worked on getting a popsicle down her to prove she could hold down fluids. Since she only drinks milk and water, we were kind of in a pickle and the popsicle was our only "liquid" option. TQC just will not drink juice or soda. Usually not a problem, but it sucks pre- and post-op since milk and water are restricted before surgery and can upset their stomach after.

Mmmm...purple popsicles.

Once she held the popsicles (two) down, it was time for them to kick us out. Crazy, right? Less than two hours before they had my baby under anethesia on an operating table and now they trust me to take her home and take care of her? Do they not read my blog?

So we gathered our stuff, put her back in her street clothes (comfy play clothes, not hooking clothes) and they took out her IV. They then gave me a tube of goop to put in her eye twice a day for a week. The only other instructions were to not let her rub her eye or swim in a pool for a week. They also provided us with some stylin' shades to protect her eyes on the ride home.
What you lookin' at, fool?
The Cool Cucumber also wanted to try out the glasses.
Passed out on the ride home.

Let's just say, recovery at home was a breeze. I shot this video an hour after we got home. She was jumping up and down like a hyena and didn't even take a nap that day since her nap time was during surgery. Kids bounce back like crazy!


The next morning, she woke up and said, "My eye is all better, Mommy. It doesn't hurt or itch anymore." Well, Ok then. Outside of her eye looking a little horror storyish, she was pretty much back to her old self (sans wonky eye, of course). We still kept her out of school Tuesday and Wednesday just to be safe.

This is what the eye looked like the next morning. Just a bit bloody in the corner and a bit swollen overall, but that is it.

The day after surgery she felt so good we hit the botanical garden!

And on Wednesday, The Cucumber was sent home with a 103.5 fever. The end.



  1. I'm so glad you guys had such a great experience. It makes all the difference when you're allowed to be there for the baby-both for the baby and YOU. And poor cucumber! CAn't you catch a break??

    1. For times when I can't catch a break, I can catch a bottle of Charles Shaw. Thank you, Trader Joe's!

  2. She looks like a celebrity with those big sunglasses at the garden! Does she not need regular glasses anymore?

    1. I call those her "Elton John" glasses. She does need regular glasses, but needed the sunglasses to protect her eyes from the sun while she heals. She is still farsighted.

  3. Glad to see her surgery was successful! What a brave girl! Hopefully the rest of her recovery is quick and painless.

  4. That pic of her crying on Mommy made me tear up!

  5. My niece just had the same surgery a month ago. The hospital where they had the surgery was not a Children's Hospital and it astounded me what a difference that can make. My sister was not allowed to be with her for going under or waking up due to "policy" and when questioned the nurses admitted it was a funding issue - there isn't money to have a seperate prep and recovery room for children and adults are prepped and recovering in the same spaces... so for privacy reasons no parents allowed! Plus, they weren't "used to children's veins" and getting her IV in was a nightmare. Unbelievable! Since then my sister has taken on the role of political advocate :) She writes letters and editorials and raises awareness for the lack of funding at our hospital for pediatric surgery... my advice is - don't wake the Mama Bear!
    Regardless my niece sailed through the surgery and recovered so quickly! They are amazing little creatures aren't they? So happy to hear that TQC is happy and healthy once again :)

    1. That is awesome of your sister. Blaze that trail, mama!

  6. I find that these types of things tend to be harder on the parents than on the child! Aren't you glad to have that past you? Congratulations!

  7. Aw, sweet little Missy! I'm so glad to hear that she came through it well, and that they were able to help her!

  8. Hurray! Glad she is recovering so well. You're such an awesome mom.

  9. So glad she's doing well! That sad picture of her in recovery broke my mama heart :(

  10. (just found this post as a new follower going through some old stuff for fun cause I think you're awesome).
    Such a brave kiddo! I've actually had this surgery twice myself, once when I was 3 (they weren't as good back then as they are now and they weren't sure if they made the muscle tight enough... nope) and again at 21 (12 yrs. ago. Much better the second time). It's no fun, but I was glad to see she was a super trooper! Way to go! =D

    1. Thanks, Jo-Anne. We will probably have to go back for a second go. 35% or more need to. Boo!

    2. Oh I had hoped that stat had changed by now. Super boo! Hopefully she'll get lucky and won't have to go back, but if she does... she'll be fantastic I'm sure. I'm pretty sure she was braver with this surgery at her age then I was at 21. ;)

    3. She was one brave girl. I think we will find out bu the end of this month if she does.

    4. Oh that soon is great! I'm crossing all my fingers and toes and legs and everything else I can think of! =)

  11. Heyyo, new commenter here, found you through RFML. I had/have strabismus as a result of cerebral palsy and had the surgery twice, once at 2 (which I don't remember), and once at 14 (which, unfortunately, I DO remember). So glad TQC's recovery went well - for me it was hell, maybe because I had it in both eyes. I had double vision for about a day after the surgery, was very sensitive to light and my eyes felt like there were a million eyelashes in them. Not to mention I had two HUGE black eyes which, as you can imagine, went over wonderfully when I returned to school. I'm 20, almost 21 now, and so far my eyes have stayed straight, but we shall see what the future holds...

    1. Thanks for the comment! Sorry your second surgery was hard. We may be in for a second down the road but for now we are ok.


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