This week, I had a bit of a shock at my son’s eye test appointment, and the feeling of shock surprised me in itself. It made me think about how unexpected things can crop up, and it’s especially scary when it’s to do with your children.
I’m a nurse, so I feel like I’m pretty clued up on medical things, and am trained to pick up on illnesses or medical problems in general. So when my son was called in for an eye test, I figured it was just a routine test, and that he’d pass with flying colours. I had no inkling of any problems to do with his vision, so off we went to his appointment.
When we got there, the very lovely orthoptist explained to me that the school had referred him, because they had concerns about his vision. Oh, I thought, okay… Maybe he’ll need reading glasses? I hadn’t noticed anything wrong when we’d read with him, but maybe the school had picked up on something little.
So the orthoptist went ahead with the eye test, and first checked my son’s right eye to see what he could read with that. She gave him some glasses to put on that blocked off his left eye. On she went, with the familiar letter flashcards, getting smaller and smaller until he got a few wrong. No problem, I thought, He needs a little help.
Then she gave him glasses to block off his right eye, to test his left eye. She started with the biggest flashcard of letters and asked him to read. My son kept trying to turn his head to look with his right eye. I told him, “Stay straight and look at the letters.” When he ‘tried’ to read the letters, he got them all wrong. All of them. He was guessing.
After a few more failed attempts, the doctor stopped the test and told me, “Yeah, he can’t see through his left eye.” She also used the word ‘blind’ somewhere along the line, and I was floored. The shock must have been all over my face because she then said, very sympathetically, “And you had no idea, did you, Mum?”
I felt myself getting very hot. I felt sick and shaky, and I wanted to cry. All this time, my poor lad had been pretty much blind in his left eye. And I had no clue.
After the appointment finished (and the instilling of eye drops into my son’s eyes, for further tests), I gathered myself and asked what exactly he could see from his left eye. The doctor told me that my son can probably see big objects, but it would be all blurry, and no detail, which is why he was unable to see the largest letters during the test. Wow.
So, my son will need glasses his whole life, 24/7. This was just a huge shock to me, but I tried very hard not to let on to him that I was shocked or upset, because then he’d wonder why. After all, it’s all he’s ever known.
When I felt that shock during the test, I remember thinking I wish I’d had another adult with me to take in all the detail, because my mind was just reeling and I found it very hard to concentrate on what the doctor was telling me. And that’s often the advice given for people dealing with shocking diagnoses: take someone with you. But, I was so sure he’d pass the test that I didn’t think to ask anyone to come with me.
We’re so hard on ourselves as parents, and I’ll admit I do feel a bit of guilt, however irrational. After all, we couldn’t do anything about this – his left eye stopped developing sometime in his first 5 months of life. How were we to know? I also feel guilt for not noticing anything wrong at home, but you take vision for granted and just assume people are seeing in the same way that you are. I’ll be going for an eye test soon, and I’ll take my daughters when they’re old enough.
I understand that this diagnosis pales in comparison to some more serious ones (autism or cancer, etc), but it still shocked me massively, and I wasn’t expecting that. It’s okay to feel how we feel, as parents, no matter how big or small the problem is. I’ve been very conscious not to let on to my son how I feel about it, because he’ll pick up on it. We’re also careful not to continue testing him further at home or anything like that; he’s had the test, and it said what it said.
So, today, we’re off to choose some frames for his glasses! He’s so excited, and I think he’s going to look extra cute with specs.
Have you ever experienced an unexpected diagnosis in your child? How did you feel? I’ve read an article which gives some good advice, here. Let me know your experiences.
Thanks for reading!