Vision Intervention Part 4: In Which Patching Begins and We Gain From an Object Lesson

by Andrea on August 15, 2012

Three months after getting glasses for the first time, Anabel’s ophthalmologist told us we would need to start patching her right eye 3 hours a day because of a vision condition called amblyopia. She sent us home with two patches, both of which are designed to slide over the lens and block out the vision in the covered eye. Anabel is farsighted and although her strabismus (the crossing inward of her left eye) was corrected by the glasses, the vision in her left eye was still very poor. You can read about our journey as we realized Anabel had impaired vision in Part 1 here, went to the eye doctor for a diagnosis in Part 2 here, and learned from a mistake when we bought her first pair of glasses  in Part 3 here.

After being told Anabel would need to patch we decided to get her a better pair of glasses but until they came in we would have to patch with the first pair. After having them retrofitted with cable temples that curved around her ears to actually keep them on her face and readjusting the nose pads they would serve her better. Despite this, the improvements didn’t make the patching easy. It was actually miserable. As for the above picture, I took it right after the patch went on. The smile lasted about as long as it took to take the shot and promptly inverted itself into a frown.

Compliance is critical but it can come at a hefty price. Anabel seemed to complain and whine constantly. “The patch is too hot! It’s itchy! I hate this thing!” The worst came when weeping replaced the words and she collapsed in pure misery, drowning herself in a deluge of self-pitying tears. She only ever had one question. A question to which I had no satisfactory answer;

“Why me?!?”

Once in a while she’d have an easier day. If you could call it that. Easier on the rest of us maybe. On the easy days she was quiet. The absence of her continual whining gave relief to the rest of us but I could see the despondency on her face. Sadness. The fight gone out of her and only a silent and unhappy resignation that she must comply because the doctor said this is what would make her eye grow stronger.

The despise for patching was really distress. All the whining and complaining really wasn’t at all. It sure sounded like it but really it was pain. Not physical but emotional pain, borne out of frustration and a sense of helplessness and even fear. Anabel simply didn’t know how to articulate her feelings. Everything was a struggle for her with the patch on because she simply couldn’t see. She’d never been forced to rely on the visual input from her left eye and that visual input was so poor she was crippled without her “good” eye. She soon found ways to get around the patch, peeking through the bottom or through the opening for the nose pad. Time and again, I thwarted her efforts to peek.

Any impatience I initially felt over the incessant moaning quickly melted into pure compassion for her struggle. Whenever Anabel has a meltdown now, I take her on my lap, cuddle her, and pray over her. I remind her that it will get easier as her eye grows stronger. Unfortunately coddling Anabel gave rise to revolt among her 5 other siblings who were getting fed up with the daily drama and the positive attention she seemed to be getting despite behavior that is normally disciplined in our household. “She’s driving us crazy! Make her stop, Mom!”

How could I get them to empathize?

The answer was in plastic wrap and vaseline. Taking a piece of plastic wrap I smeared a bit of vaseline on one side. One at a time, I had each child close their right eye and hold the dry side of the plastic wrap in front of their left eye and look through. Each one in turn told me how blurry everything was. I used the opportunity to explain to them that they were viewing the world as Anabel saw it. Compounding the discomfort of wearing a hot, itchy patch, Anabel couldn’t see much with her free eye. No wonder she cried so much! This object lesson gave new understanding to her brothers and sisters. They got it. And they began showing compassion and patience. Their new attitude toward Anabel helped her cope. She now had allies to encourage her.

To ease the dread and discomfort of patching, we settled on having her wear the patch for all 3 hours at one time and as early in the day as possible. I also searched online for patches that would be more comfortable to wear. After reading several reviews and looking at several options I ordered patches of a soft material in cute fabrics that attach to the glasses but sit over the eye and under the lens. I didn’t want Anabel’s tiny face to be eclipsed by the presence of a large patch covering half her glasses. We chose patches from Eye-Lids. What a difference they made! They came just after we picked up Anabel’s new glasses.

Things have gotten easier. Between the new glasses, cuter, more comfortable patches, and emotional support not just from Mom and Dad but from the whole family, patching has become bearable. The meltdowns still come sometimes but not every day. Her last appointment revealed some improvement in the weaker eye. I am sure this will translate into less frustration since her capacity to function will increase as her vision strengthens. She’s a happier girl now than in those first weeks for sure. There is still a long road ahead. Anabel will be patching for at least another year, if not more. But for now, we’re taking it one day at a time. Anabel's sparkle kitty patch

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Agniya August 21, 2012 at 3:43 am

Wow – what a story & roller coaster!
You truly found a very clever way to show the other kids what Anabel is dealing with. I love it. Very nice.

Anabel’s glasses look so cute on her – with or without patch! She is such a cutie! Just hang in there and deal with the patch now, so the eye will be good for the rest of life :)

Hugs to everyone,
Agniya

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Andrea August 22, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Sudden inspiration. But it worked. It also made an impact on me too. I even did it to Jorge! Was beneficial for all of us.

Hugs right back atcha’ Tante!

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