Whenever Olivia and I are patching out in public, we get a lot of people that come up to us and ask about her eye. For the most part, people are so sweet. They ask if it is an injury or something she was born with, they ask if she keeps her window glasses on while she patches (she doesn’t by the way…) and they ask if she acts differently when her patch is on verse when its off. But the question I get asked the most is whether or not Olivia’s PFV has deterred her in her development. This question is always met with a smile.
I am so proud to say that Olivia’s condition has not slowed down her development in the slightest. At just 4 months old and 1 month into patching, Olivia was babbling up a storm! At 11 months now, she is taking her first steps (with a couple tumbles of course) and constantly calling for momma. While patched, she reaches for objects in front of her with decent accuracy, cruises around the house, ‘reads’ her books – upside down of course – and tracks objects that are placed in front of her. When eating her meals, Olivia can reach in front of her and grab the waffles – our current favorite meal – right off of her plate. She plays peekaboo with her cat, Echo and runs to daddy when she hears the car door slam.
Now all of these milestones probably sound amazing…especially for a child that technically is considered special needs because of her nemo eye. But I will admit that these amazing skills that Olivia is mastering came at a price. While she is patched, my husband and I constantly work with her to track and play with confidence. We encourage her with high pitched yells and exaggerated smiles to walk on that unsteady ground and turn the pages of books because we know that these skills that come easy to other babies, may be harder for her to grasp. When we started patching Olivia at just four months old, the skills listed above were only a dream. Olivia was terrified to have the patch on for longer than 10 minutes. She would cry and thrash around unless we were directly in front of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. She would be afraid to sit in her high chair and eat her food because she couldn’t see it and would fall asleep minutes into patching just to get a reprieve from the darkness. It was hard and trying but looking back now, pushing her to find the light in an otherwise dark eye has created such a spunky, confident, fierce little girl. She is no longer afraid of the dark but rather embraces the challenge. And that may seem a little too deep for a baby that hasn’t even hit her first birthday yet, but I swear I can see such maturity and strength behind those baby blues.
I want to encourage all of those patching mommas and dads out there to keep patching. I know how hard it is and it’s a practice that doesn’t always get the right result. We all know that sometimes, patching doesn’t really help our littles…but sometimes, it does. Sometimes patching everyday strengthens their eye just enough that they start to see this magical world through both. And if the worst happens and patching doesn’t yield the result we were hoping for, we will know that our little tribe did everything we possibly could to give Olivia her best chance at vision. But no matter what, the way this little girl sees the world is in a way I will be envious of for the rest of my life.