Tuesday, June 5, 2012


I’ve known for a long time that Jasper would need eye surgery. Strabismus surgery, to straighten his eyes - strabismus is the condition where the eyes do not line up, they do not work together to look in the same direction, at the same object. I cannot remember if his doctors first mentioned surgery at three weeks... or three months. Then, it was described as distant, something I would not have to worry about for a few years. Last January, Jasper’s ophthalmologist told me otherwise - surgery should happen by summer. Looking at the calendar, summer is officially a few weeks away. Jasper’s surgery will follow nine days later, on June 29th.

Structurally, Jasper’s eyes are perfect - more perfect than mine. I am so severely nearsighted that, if not correctable with lenses, I would be considered legally blind. Jasper’s impairment occurs in the brain, when it receives visual information. Strabismus surgery is not a cure for his cortical visual impairment. It will simply - hopefully - straighten his eyes so they can work together, and give him a better chance of developing stereoscopic, three-dimensional vision. The earlier this is done, the better the chances for success, before the depth perception area of his brain is set. Surgery is not a cure for his impairment. My hope is that we might at least check off a few boxes.

There are other options besides surgery. Time consuming therapy, time we do not have. Ever since Jasper was born I have been keenly aware that with each passing day, we lose time. As if the Wicked Witch of the West had turned over her hourglass as soon as Jasper came into this world. Each day, we work on making as many synaptic connections as we can, but is it enough? Enough for his brain to compensate for stroke? Not having surgery is another option. The risk is that one eye weakens, and eventually the brain forgets about it. Blindness in the weak eye is the result.

Strabismus surgery does not always take, and may need to be repeated. The eyes are straightened by repositioning the eye muscles, which are accessed by pulling down the lower lids. Surgery will be done on both eyes. Afterward, Jasper’s eyes will be blood red. His brain will decide whether it takes.

I spent a few weeks vacillating between having Jasper’s regular ophthalmologist perform the surgery at Swedish First Hill, or having it done by the pediatric opthalmologist at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Although I am strongly attached to Children’s, I opted to stick with our guy. Today I received information from Swedish on surgery procedure and prep (no hairspray or cologne for Jasper, day of surgery). Reading through the literature, all I could think was, I wish we could do this at Children’s... Being in familiar surroundings would be a tremendous comfort.

One of my biggest fears is anesthesia. I can stay with Jasper until he is asleep. Surgery typically lasts 45 minutes to an hour. As soon as it is appropriate, I can be with him in recovery. I worry about the interim. I worry about seeing my baby asleep in the hospital, and going through PTSD, back to when Jasper was a newborn in the NICU.

Maybe the new setting will help after all.

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