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.