by Risa Green
If seasons were given titles, then this summer would be, for me, The Summer of My Son’s Issues. Because on top of discovering that he has anxiety , this week I’ve learned that he has a lazy eye. So come to think of it, a better title might be The Lazy (and Anxious) Days of Summer.
Now, if you’re like me and every single person I’ve told about this, then the words “lazy eye” are causing you to conjure an image of an eyeball gone wild, rolling around in its socket with no control or self-restraint whatsoever. And if you’ve ever met my son then the first thing you would say to me would be, huh, I never even noticed that before. Which would be correct, because that is not what my son has. What you’re thinking of is a wandering eye (though not the kind that belongs to cheating husbands), or, to use the proper medical terminology, strabismus. A lazy eye, on the other hand (a/k/a amblyopia), is actually not a problem with the eye at all, but rather a problem with the brain; specifically, that the brain doesn’t see what is reflected back to it by one of the eyes. The other eye, however, is fine (20/20 in my son’s case) and so the brain relies on that eye to get all of it’s images, allowing the other eye to become “lazy” because it doesn’t need to do any work. Which, in layman’s terms, means that my son’s spent his entire life walking around half blind. Literally.
So how did I discover this? Well, last year, at his five year-old check up, my pediatrician had him read an eye chart, which, I noticed, he seemed to struggle with a bit. But the nurse assured me that he passed, that he was young, that he probably didn’t know all the letters, that I shouldn’t worry, blah, blah, blah. So I went on with my life, but in the back of my head I guess I kind of suspected that he didn’t really pass. And then lately, I started noticing that when he watches tv, he has to get up close to read words or to see numbers that the rest of us can read from clear across the room. So I went ahead and made him an appointment with an eye doctor. He read from an eye chart with his left eye covered, and he breezed right through it. Then he read from the same chart with his right eye covered, and he couldn’t see a damn thing. I swear to God, the C E T L were in like, 200 point font, and he was all, ummmmmmmm, X? I didn’t even believe him at first. I thought he was just getting bored, and wasn’t trying, so I was like, dude, come on, pay attention. But all I got from him was ummmmmmmm, M? At which point my mommy panic button went off, and that’s when I realized that this was Not Good.
Cut to: ten minutes later, my son is hanging out in the exam room watching an ancient episode of Sponge Bob, while I’m in the doctor’s office having the ins and outs of amblyopia and it’s treatment explained to me. Which is, basically, that the kid needs glasses (no shit) and that that it’s a good thing I brought him in now, because at this age, the brain is still plastic enough to respond to therapy. The therapy being that he’s got to wear a patch over his good eye to force the bad eye to work, and he’s got to play a special video game (there goes my no more video games rule) that will help to strengthen it.
My first question, of course, was does he have to wear the patch to school, because that’s all I need, is for my super-anxious kid who’s just starting kindergarten to get made fun of because he looks like a friggin’ pirate. But, whew, he doesn’t. He only needs to wear it for three hours a day after school, which is a very good thing, because when I got home and looked up the patches that the doctor recommended (which actually are fabric, cup-like things that slip on over the glasses), it occurred to me that calling him a pirate would be generous.
My son cried when I told him that he was going to need glasses (but I don’t want glasses, mommy, I’m not going to look handsome anymore), but he perked up a bit when we picked out a pair of cool, dark blue frames. And then a few days later our whole family went back to the doctor where we were given a tutorial on how to use the video game that he has to play. Except only he can play it, because the doctor checks his progress on-line and if someone else (like my daughter) were to play, it would skew the results. My daughter whined at hearing this – awww, but I want to play it, it’s fun – and my son smiled at her. Well, he said, if you get a lazy eye, then maybe you can get your own game to play.