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Our Own Little Mister Magoo

Yesterday was an interesting day. For a while, we’d been noticing that Charlie’s left eye turns in sometimes. It started out only when he was tired, but by this summer it was happening more often. At his three-year checkup, his pediatrician noticed it too and gave us a referral to the Eye Clinic at Seattle Children’s.

Which brings us to yesterday. We expected the appointment to be more than a quick in-and-out and at a little over two hours, we were right. It started with a straightforward eye exam. The eye clinic uses a computer monitor across the room rather than a classic eye chart. Charlie still mixes up a few of his letters, so we chose to use the little pictures instead of letters. He breezed through the both-eyes test and did the same with his right eye. When it came time to try his left eye, he started twisting and squirming to try to get out from behind the thing covering his right eye. So they patched his right eye instead. Starting with the medium-sized pictures, he couldn’t see any of the pictures well enough to make them out. Ditto with the next size larger. Only at the very largest screen-filling size could he make out the figures.

Now, this was one of those moments that every parent dreads. Charlie is sitting there being the perfect little patient (as he was through the whole thing–what a trooper!), trying his very best, but it was clear he just couldn’t see the picture of a house that was as plain-as-day ten feet away from him. He wanted to be able to see it, but he just couldn’t.

They decided to double-check his vision with something called a Teller Acuity test. This test, which was developed right here at the University of Washington, uses a series of grey cards with a box of black-and-white stripes on one end and solid grey on the other. Each successive card has narrower stripes and acuity is measured by finding the narrowest stripes that are distinguishable from the grey background. Charlie did much better on the Teller test, but his left eye was still only 20/70.

I’ll skip over the details of the rest of the appointment and cut to the chase. Charlie needs glasses. Nice thick glasses. “Mister Magoo” glasses, as the doctor joked to us. He has strabismic amblyopia: his left eye is misaligned, so his brain suppresses the signal from that eye to avoid double vision. His eye wouldn’t be as likely to misalign if his eyes and brain weren’t working so hard just to see at all. Glasses should give his eyes and brain enough of a break that his left eye will be able to keep itself aligned. That’s the theory, anyway. We’ll go back in three months or so to see how he’s doing. If he’s not close to normal by then, it will be eyepatch time. At least pirates are in these days.

After preschool today, Charlie and I went over to Phinney Ridge Eyecare and picked out some frames for him:

"Charlie's Glasses"

His will be a different color (blueish frames with dark brown temples). He looks just amazingly cute in these things and he actually seems excited about getting them next week. We’ll see how things go when he actually has to wear them all day every day.