I distinctively remember the day I noticed Grayson’s eye in August 2013…
My youngest, Braxton, was still only a few months old and I was wracked with ‘mommy guilt’ – due to the fact that my eldest, Grayson, didn’t have as much time with me as before. So, while Braxton napped, Grayson and I sat on the floor throwing a ball to each other. He was just over two and a half years old. As we were playing, I saw his eye turn when he was concentrating on the ball.
I kept playing and noticed it more and more. My ‘mom’ instinct kicked in and I knew there was something wrong.
When his dad got home, I asked Kevin to play with Grayson and watch his eye; wanting to see if I was imagining things or if Dad saw it too. Sure enough, Kevin noticed it. A few days later we saw our family doctor. I explained what had happened and he examined Grayson for a few minutes and said “Yes. He has a squint.” He went on to explain that Grayson would need to see a specialist and that there were a few options to fix his eye. He wrote us a referral to see Dr Stark, one of the best paediatric ophthalmologists in Queensland, Australia. Knowing that it can take a bit of time to get an appointment with a specialist, I called up Dr Stark’s office as soon as I left the Doctor’s rooms. Three weeks later, we saw Dr Stark for the first time.
I was nervous – I’d been Googling Grayson’s condition what I’d found was scary. It was a long appointment where they put drops in his eyes and we had to wait before they could examine him. It felt like we were there for hours, and Grayson was getting unsettled and a little scared courtesy of all the questions, probing and tests. Dr Stark then told us Grayson had Strabismus, explained the condition and outlined our course of action…
First, he was prescribed glasses. We took him for his eye test and then waited a few days for his glasses to come in. In the first few days he was excited about his new glasses, but soon the novelty wore off. We had asked if there was a band or something to try to keep them on him, but we were told there wasn’t anything for his age group. At the next appointment, we told Dr Stark how much of a mission it was with the glasses and that Grayson didn’t want to wear them.
We fought to get him to wear the glasses but he complained that it hurt his eyes and that he couldn’t see. We battled through with bribes and trying to stealthily put the glasses on him while he was watching a movie, but it was hard.
Our next step was patches. These he tolerated a lot better, as we told him we were all going to be pirates with our patches, but to my untrained eye, I couldn’t see any improvement. In May 2014, Dr Stark admitted the patches weren’t working and talked to us about the surgery. He booked Grayson in for surgery in July at one of the children’s hospitals in Brisbane. We had a few appointments with Dr Stark leading up to the surgery, with the last one telling us about the operation and what to expect.
We desperately wanted the patches to work because we knew our final option was surgery.
We were told that sometimes one operation isn’t enough and that Grayson might need another operation down the line.
“As much as we, his parents, didn’t want him to have to go through surgery, we knew it was the right thing to do as Grayson had started asking us what was wrong with his eye and why were his eyes different to his friends.”
The morning of the 7th of July 2014 was probably one of my scariest as a mom. We were up really early (way before the sun) and my brother had flown up from Sydney to help us out with Braxton. Kevin and I bundled Grayson up and left home, needing to be at the hospital by 6:30am. We got there, checked in and were sent to a waiting room full of other kids who had surgeries that day too. Luckily, there were toys and TVs set to children’s channels to distract Grayson and at about 8am, we were called in to get ready for the surgery. We got him gowned up and ready, and Dr Stark popped in to say ‘hello’.
Kevin and I were a bundle of nerves. When they were ready for Grayson in the surgery area, the nurse explained only one parent could accompany him. I took his little hand and we walked to the room. The anaesthesiologist was lovely and told Grayson he was going to put a mask on him to make him a superhero.
It only took seconds for the sedation to take hold, but Grayson was scared, which made me cry. I was walked out of the room by a nurse and I was crying my eyes out.
It’s a horrible thing to have to go through, watching your child be sedated. My brother had arrived so we tried to distract ourselves while the surgery was happening. We got coffee and food, and we took it up to the parents’ waiting room. The room was full of parents and every five to ten minutes the phone would ring, telling the parents which children were out of surgery and in recovery.
It felt like forever until we got our call. When we did… Kevin, my brother and I headed to the recovery ward. Grayson was still asleep, but we were told the surgery went really well and Dr Stark told us that he tightened the muscles in both his eyes (originally he was only going to tighten the muscle in the problematic eye).
“It took a while for Grayson to wake up and he was very groggy, complaining his eyes hurt and he kept crying. When he cried, he had tears mixed with blood, so it looked like he was crying blood. I didn’t expect that and it actually scared me.”
The nurse explained that it’s normal and the reason he was saying his eyes hurt was because for 24 hours after the operation it would feel like he had sand in his eyes. The nurse also told us they wouldn’t let him leave until he ate and drank something and kept it down, so we were trying to coax him to eat, but he just wanted to sleep. We got home mid-afternoon, and Grayson just wanted to lay on the couch and rest.
The nurse explained that for 24 hours after the operation it would feel like he had sand in his eyes.
The following day we had a check up appointment with Dr Stark… he was very pleased with how Grayson’s eyes were looking. We had a few more appointments with Dr Stark over the next few weeks to check on the progress of his eyes and since then, Grayson has been given the all clear by the doc.
The surgery was a success and Dr Stark doesn’t think it will return (but advised us to watch for any changes), he also checked Braxton’s eyes and said his eyes are showing no signs of Strabismus.
It’s now been almost a year and a half since the surgery and I’m happy to say that Grayson’s eyes are still perfect!
I am so relieved that we noticed it early on and were able to get it sorted, before he had to start school etc. because it’s worrying as a mom – kids can be cruel.
Chelsea is an Australian married mama of “two sweet, but destructive boys!” When she’s not chasing her two boys around, she’s a photographer, specialising in fine art portraits of newborns, maternity and family.