So I thought I would write a quick post about our situation with Billy’s eye because it seems to affect a lot of parents and it just might help someone else. I’ve received a lot of messages on Snapchat and Instagram ranging from asking me to explain what happens at the appointments right down to where to pick up the eye patches. I’m going to cover as much as I possibly can here and then bring you up to speed on our journey.
I’ll start from the beginning. We noticed that Billy’s eye was turning in from a very young age. From as young as six months or perhaps when he was even younger, I can’t remember. It seemed to be something that we always noticed in photographs. I didn’t worry too much about it because when I googled it or spoke about it on internet forums it seemed to come across as a really common issue and one that the majority of children grew out of.
As he got older we started to notice it more regularly but I have to admit that my husband noticed it a lot more than I did. I don’t know if it was because I was with Billy all day while he was at work or if he was just more sensitive to it, but he saw it a lot more than I did and to be honest he was the reason why we properly looked in to getting to the bottom of it.
Initially we had mentioned it to our PHN who recommended that we mention it to our GP. We did that and the GP sent a referral to the ophthalmology department in Our Ladies Hospital in Crumlin. I think Billy was about ten months old at this point and we were told to expect a wait of about eighteen months on the public system.
About a year later we felt that his eye was getting worse. When it hit the eighteen month mark I called the department and asked about an appointment and was told that the wait would be more like two years. Another six months felt like an eternity so we did our research and decided to visit a private clinic in Ranelagh in the meantime. We paid about €200 and the ophthalmologist didn’t seem overly concerned. He felt Billy would grow out of it and put it down to Billy having a wide set nose or a wide nose bridge? I honestly can’t remember what way he worded it but as a mother all I heard was that everything seemed find and we didn’t have to worry. So we didn’t.
We began noticing it on a more regular basis and started to get anxious again about the public appointment. I even went back to the GP who sent another referral letter marking it as urgent. We wanted the reassurance and to be in “the system”. By pure coincidence we ended up in Our Ladies again in October 2017 with Billy’s “broken leg”. While we were there I approached the staff at the check-in desk and asked about our appointment at the eye clinic. I told them that Billy had been on the public waiting list for over two years and we had heard nothing. They said they would look in to it but they did seem a bit surprised that we had heard nothing. When we were sitting in the waiting room at the fracture clinic the staff member came to find me and asked would we be available to visit the eye clinic a couple of days later. Naturally I jumped on the opportunity and was delighted to have a date. I do wonder what might have happened if we weren’t in the hospital that day.
So we attended the clinic in October 2017 when Billy was 3 and a bit. I was told we would be seeing two people on the day – an Orthoptist and an Ophthalmologist. I’m not 100% sure of the difference even now. I think one is an eye doctor and then one works with the eye doctor to help manage the issue.
So the appointment. When we arrived at Our Ladies I was expecting that Billy was going to be given eye-drops. I only knew this as a friend had told me that this happened at her son’s appointment. And that’s exactly what happened. We were called in to a nurses office and he was given a couple of drops in each eye which naturally he didn’t love but it was OK. They then leave you for about half an hour and then look in to their eyes to see that the drops have worked. The point is that they will dilate them and make the eye examinations easier. Unfortunately one of Billy’s eyes didn’t quite dilate enough and he needed more drops but again it wasn’t a huge deal.
We were then called in to the Orthopist. She did a lot of different exams. Some involved asking Billy to follow a light or a pen that was in her hand. Others used a TV screen and asked Billy to explain what he could see, so I’m not really sure how this part would be done for a younger child who wouldn’t understand that element. The Orthopist confirmed that he did have a turn in his eye and that it would be quite likely that he would need surgery to correct it. I’ll admit that this took me by complete shock. I immediately panicked and started imagining him in an operating theatre. I know that as far as operations go it isn’t very serious but it’s not a nice thing to imagine.
Interestingly enough the Orthopist asked quite a few questions about my son’s birth. She wasn’t surprised when I said that he had been born by forceps. I wondered if maybe there might be some research going on to suggest a link between that kind of birth and a turn in a baby’s eye because you’ll see in the photo below that the left eye is where Billy was very badly bruised and this is the eye that has the turn. A turn is a muscular issue. Food for thought at the very least?
We were called in to see the Ophthalmologist about thirty minutes later. We were seen by a woman first and she seemed to be working alongside the main Ophthalmologist. She put glasses on him and looked at his eyes with a special light. It was non invasive and the hardest part was getting Billy to answer the questions. It had been a long morning and he was a bit fed up and tired at this stage. At the very end of the appointment the Ophthalmologist came in to the room and said that the turn was definitely there and at his age there wasn’t a huge amount that we could do. He said that Billy controlled it very well when he was up close to what he was looking at. But from a distance or when he looked at something for afar, he struggled to control it and the eye would wander off. He said to keep an eye on it (har har har) and come back in six months. We were given two appointments for about six months from then. One for the Orthopist and one for the Ophthalmologist. We’ve had the Orthopist appointment just last week and the update is that the turn is quite severe and not very straight forward to fix even by surgery which he will almost certainly require now in a couple of years. They don’t like to operate until a child is six or seven. However this time the Orthopist has suggested that we try patching for a couple of months.
The idea behind patching is that a child wears a patch over the “good eye” for a certain amount of hours per day. It is supposed to strengthen the eye that has the squint (I call it a turn, they refer to it as a squint some of the time) as it is relied on solely for vision for them hours. It has to work harder. We were given a couple of sample patches and told where to pick up some of the novelty ones. As you can imagine he wasn’t mad about the idea but in general he was pretty good about wearing them. That was until he started reacting really badly to them. He started getting a rash and his eye would become irritated to the point where we couldn’t put the patch on him the next day. The Orthopist had recommended he wear them for two hours per day 5 days per week. I’d say on average, because of these issues, he has worn them 3-4 days per week. A couple of people have recommended a cotton eye patch that is fixed to glasses but Billy doesn’t actually wear glasses. His eye sight is normal and we’ve been told it’s just marginally weaker in the eye with the squint.
We’ve discovered that the plain ones from the chemist seem to irritate him the least so we are sticking to those. We’ve returned the novelty ones as he seems to be allergic to the adhesive or material they are made from. So we are sticking to these and I suppose time will tell if they make a difference. We’ve been told that they won’t fix the turn but they might prevent it from getting worse or help the squint become a little easier to operate on.
So there you are now – I hope that helps someone who might be wondering what the procedure is with these kinds of things. Every situation is different but it’s good to know what other people’s experiences have been.
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