Before my son Joel’s first Strabismus surgery earlier this year, we were patching four hours a day. I could do four hours a day. We’d start patching first thing in the morning when he was fresh. I used lots of distractions and praise. By Noon he was ready for the patch to come off. But that was no big deal because he was allowed to take the patch off.
Fast forward to today. We have one surgery under our belts. It was not as successful as the Doctors had hoped. We went in for a check-up and the Doctor decided she wanted to do a second surgery at the end of the month. To do this, we need to get on an “aggressive patching plan” to realign his eyes. Full time patching. All waking hours. On a toddler. Wow! Our Doctor actually told us just to brace for a couple weeks of hell and just power through it.
I hate to subject any child to two weeks of hell if it isn’t totally necessary, so we’re working to find ways to make full time patching as stress free as possible. It may not be stress free, but if there is patching in your future, here are a few of my tips and tricks to make your life a little easier.
- Read this post. It was previously posted on the Little Four Eyes site and Melissa does a great job of giving an overview of patching in their house. It is always great to hear what others are doing and what works for them.
- Get a Game Plan. Sit down with your spouse. Decide how things are going to work. Do you have enough patches? Do you need any other supplies? Are you committed to being firm about patching? Understand each of you might be stressed out through this process (as well as your child). You will need each other’s love and support.
- Don’t Take “No” for an Answer. If your child thinks he can get out of wearing his patch by pulling it off, he will. Stand firm. If he pulls it off, put another on. Don’t let his behavior dictate your treatment plan. It’s for his own good. Love him enough to stand firm.
- Celebrate Patching. Find ways to make patching fun. Get siblings involved. My boys all colored patches together and then “patched” their stuffed animals. It was a great way for them to all be involved in the patching process and it allowed Joel to see his “friends” wearing patches too.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep. A well rested child is, usually, a happy child. Children are less likely to act out when they are well rested. I have found when I have a well rested child he is less likely to pick at his patch or rub his eyes. It also helps to avoid overstimulation.
- Don’t forget to love on your other kids. I found this one out on day one. I was spending so much time doting on Joel and his full time patching endeavor, I was neglecting my other two boys. They quickly reminded me they also need my love and attention and we got that fixed. If a patching related incident is taking up a good deal of my time, I try to include the other two. I let them be my “assistants” and help our “patient” with his eye patch.
- Having trouble getting the patch on? Try holding your child on your lap and put the patch on from behind. (This was also helpful for me to ensure I was patching the correct eye). For toddlers, find something to occupy their hands (and thus their mind). I put three Pez into a Pez dispenser. Joel loves working to get his treat and doesn’t even notice when I slip on the patch.
- Is he still not leaving the patch on? Have you tried diverting his attention to another activity? Giving lots of praise or a reward for wearing his patch? Restraining his arms? The last one may sound harsh, but we found arm restraints were a big help at first. After Joel got used to having the patch on, they were no longer needed. (Our arm restraints were provided by our doctor at surgery number one. If you ask your eye care professional, they might have something that would work for you.)
- Experiment with the “equipment.” There are different types of patches out there. Some have a heavier “stick” than others. (Ortopad kid patches are less sticky, while Nexcare patches stick a little harder to skin). If your child has sensitive skin, be conscious of how you are removing the patch. If the patch is on tight, try baby oil around the area or putting a warm wash cloth over the patch to loosen the hold. You can also use Milk of Magnesia to soothe irritated skin.
- Make yourself a “care basket.” I don’t know why, but for some reason having all my supplies in a cute basket just makes me happy. And it puts everything you need at your finger tips. Your spouse, other caregivers, or family members will know right where to pull supplies from if needed. Our care basket includes: Milk of Magnesia, baby oil, a wash cloth, Q-Tips, cotton balls, two types of patches, and Pez candy for a little reward.
You are not alone. There are others going through the same thing. Link up with others on the Little Four Eyes Facebook page. And when it gets really tough, just take a good long look at that little face. The face of your precious child. They are worth the extra work, the hassle, the tears. You are doing this for them and their vision and that’s a very admirable thing!