the wings on the fly

Zoe went in for her  first appointment since she started patching.  She’s been patching 4 hours every day for 7 weeks.  She’s certainly told me multiple times that she doesn’t want to wear a patch, but to her credit, she’s worn the patch every single day without fail.  I was hoping we’d see some progress at the appointment, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was worried.

This time she read the charts with no hesitation, with both eyes.  Just 7 weeks ago, I’d watched her struggle to identify the shapes when she had her left eye covered, but there was no struggle this time.  Even better was later when her ophthalmologist put the polarized glasses on her and showed her that picture of the fly where the wings look like they come out of the picture.

“Can you see the fly’s wings?” asks the ophthalmologist.

“Yes!” says Zoe.

“Can you pinch them?”

She reaches above the picture with her hand.  “No, actually I can’t,” she says, clearly puzzled by the whole thing.  I almost cried.  And we try to explain what’s going on, and why it’s a good thing in words that a 4 year old would understand.   Then the ophthalmologist asked Zoe to look at the animal pictures on the other side of the test.  All of a sudden Zoe started excitedly talking about all the different parts of these different animals that were coming off of the page.  Crazy!

We’re going to try tapering off Zoe’s patching:  2 hours per day for the next 2 weeks, then 1 hour per day for another 2 weeks, and then a follow up exam 2 weeks after that.

I’d love to say that there was something that we did these last 7 weeks that was the key – that there was some quick tip or trick I could pass along that would cure every child’s amblyopia.  But I want to be clear: we were extremely lucky.  Yes, Zoe did a lot of work with the patching, and I’m so very proud of my girl for doing it, day after day, at school, at church, even at birthday parties, and even though she often told me she didn’t like it.  But I’ll reiterate, we were lucky. Zoe’s amblyopia was mild to begin with, I didn’t catch what her acuity was in her weaker right eye when we started patching, but it wasn’t awful.  Good enough that she could pass a vision screening at her pediatrician’s visit without triggering a referral in any case, which means better than 20/40.  But since she’s been seeing the same eye doctor for over 3 years, her doctor saw her right eye’s acuity had dropped since her last visit 6 months ago, and had us start the patching right away.  So it was mild, and caught early.  And the fact that her bad eye wasn’t that bad meant that while patching was not fun, she could still function relatively well with her good eye patched, which no doubt helped with compliance.

8 responses to “the wings on the fly

  1. I can’t get over how fabulous this is. Congratulations and good job, Zoe!

    It’s a great reminder about how critically important it is to catch amblyopia early! More kids could have wonderful results like this if thorough vision screenings were standard at younger ages!


  2. Ann, I’m really curious: Has the way they test Zoe’s 3D vision changed over time? Stella has passed the fly test, too, but she’s so young, it’s harder to get clear responses, etc. Zoe’s ability to respond and talk about what she sees must be helpful. Now you have no doubt–she totally sees in 3D! I bet that was emotional.


  3. We are SO excited for you! What great news! Patching is hard, but your dedication has obviously proven successful!!! YEAH PATCHES!!! Elly still can’t see the fly wings, but was able to choose which animal in the row popped out, so there is still hope as she was never able to do it in the past. Did they do the red / green dots on the flashlight? (not sure what this test is called?)


  4. That’s really great and encouraging news. We just found out that Anna needs to patch again and of course she’s not as cooperative this time, but we’re getting in as much as we can. Anna can’t see the shapes pop out and we’re not sure if she can see the fly wings yet since she’s just terrified of it (she jumps every time they show her the picture and says she doesn’t want to touch it).


  5. Hi, Ann!

    Karen (Purdy) Gotto, ’97 here; Tessa Clark sent me to you. I treasure this blog!

    My son, Will (4 1/2) just started patching. Just wanted to pass along a resource that others might find useful: Custom No Peek Patches from 2DaughtersandaMom on Etsy. Very simple, nothing fancy, but unlike everything we’ve tried so far, my son will actually wear it (and inexpensive enough to buy several, thankfully).


    • Hi Karen!

      Thanks for the tip about the patches, they’re cute, and I love that she’ll make custom patches.

      Good luck with the patching!


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