Two Years

It’s been slightly over two years since the operation and a long rollercoaster ride. I would say that we’re currently on a smooth track. She’s turned three and doctor visits are now once every six months, a huge difference from once every six-weeks.

We’ve swopped out her conformer for her prosthetic eye again for a more natural look but she seems to have outgrown it and the alignment is not quite there… we may have to create a new one. There’s that implant operation that failed twice, yet doesn’t have to be done right now.

Being mean to Matty since 2015. In his house. With his book. While he stares on. 

She doesn’t let it get in her way. Despite only having one eye, she walks and runs like any other kid her age. She can kick balls (and the butts of bullies in future) with good aim, having constant practice along the long corridor outside our house. If it doesn’t bother her, it shouldn’t bother us.

We have to keep her eye properly moisturised as the prosthetic eye is unable to produce moisture. Somehow, it’s a struggle at home, but she lets her teachers at childcare do it for her. Childcare transforms children, I tell you. It’s been less than a month in school and she has been having regular afternoon naps, eats her vegetables (!!!) and even lets the teachers tie her hair in fancy styles *brain explodes. This was never possible. The closest I got to tying her hair was when she was influenced by the witch in Room on the Broom. Even then, she only let me braid her hair when she was role-playing the witch. I should have sent her in earlier.

Look at this girly girl with her IKEA cat that never leaves her side.

Pro-tip: Use an easily available toy as your child’s comfort item. Good luck if your child’s chou-chou is passed down from 30 years ago or discontinued. It’s going to be many sleepless nights for both of you.

This IKEA cat is a reincarnation of Cat Version 1 which was unfortunately and unintentionally left behind on a flight to Korea. I emailed the airline, but didn’t get a favourable reply. Poor cat. I bought another one off the shelves for her. It’s only $9.90.



Number 3

No, it’s not a baby. Today, Elise will be undergoing her THIRD repair operation. In textbook model cases, only one operation is needed to remove the eye and insert a plastic round implant to replace the eyeball. Note that there is currently no procedure that can let her regain vision in her right eye, so everything is largely due to aesthetic reasons.

To recap, the first operation went pretty alright until discharge started leaking from the right eye and it was discovered that her implant got exposed.

The second operation to repair the exposed implant was a failure. She couldn’t open her eye even after the stitches were removed and it was all bloody.

The following week, a third operation was done. When her stitches got removed, the entire plastic ball popped out. The doctor advised us to leave it alone. Since then, she’s been functioning well without it.

Which brings us to today. The surgeon intends to do a fat graft to extract fat from her bum to place in her eye as the plastic implant obviously doesn’t work. Fat grafts in children have shown to work better as the fat somehow expands to fit the empty socket rather than shrink, which is what happens in adults.

Is this all necessary? The surgeon told us that we could wait to avoid her getting traumatised but it is a surgery that will have to be done anyway, so I prefer to get it over with. I’ve asked what will happen if we don’t do the surgery. As she is still very young, if there is a gap in her socket, the bones may not grow properly since there is nothing to support them. I decided to go ahead with the surgery.

Besides, it’s not the surgery but the post recovery wound care that affects her the most. She’s only just regained her appetite after recovering from cough, and everything is going to go down the drain again.

She’s at an age where she has started to elaborate and use full sentences to describe her surroundings and feelings. Even after so many operations and “staycations” at the hospital ward, the guilt never goes away. 🙁

We’ve been disappointed and disheartened and have questioned the surgeon on the multiple failed results. We don’t doubt the surgeon. He has decades of experience. I’ve asked him why he didn’t go ahead with the fat graft, but he was reserving it as a last option as it would leave a small scar at her back. Sigh. We all hope this will be the last op.

A Lesson on Looks

Elise has had her prosthetic eye in for slightly less than a year. After her follow-up in January, we were told that the tissue below her prosthetic eye had eroded due to abrasion and insufficient moisture. I was supposed to put in eyedrops for her as many times a day as possible. She would run away from me whenever I tried to touch her eye and I failed to fulfil this necessary criteria. 

It wasn’t a wound that would heal by itself, thus Dr Ganga suggested that an operation be done to cover up the gap. He warned that there might be a need to do a skin graft off her back if the donor tissue wasn’t enough to cover the gap. I agreed almost immediately because the hole would only continue getting larger with repeated contact from movement. The boring name for the procedure Elise underwent is “Scleral Patch Graft for Exposed Orbital Implant”. Don’t Google that if you’re squeamish. 

The operation went well and the donor tissue was enough to patch up the 5mm gap in her eye socket. We spent the next two nights in a 8-bedder ward. She vomited and ran a fever, yet she refused to take Paracetamol orally.  The Paracetamol was also to help her combat the pain from the operation. Eventually, the nurses gave her Paracetamol via intravenous drip. -_- 

The worst part was when the nurses tried to change her eye dressing. It was a necessary yet traumatic experience for her as the wound was fresh and her entire eyelid was stitched shut and swollen. To prevent her from struggling, we swaddled her with a bedsheet. My dad held her legs down. A nurse held her head down while another tried to wipe her eyelid and apply medicine.

“No, no, no, no! Go away! Go away! Help! 엄마! 公公!No, no, go away! 아빠!”, she tried all she could to get herself out of that situation by pleading with us to stop, calling for each of us to save her. She gripped my hand for support. The hand which failed to rescue her from fear. It was impossible to adhere the tape for the eye shield onto Elise’s face which was dripping with perspiration and tears. 🙁

For about 10 days after the operation, her eyelid remained stitched shut to aid wound healing. At its worst state, it looked like someone socked her in the eye. It was all red and puffy like a goldfish’s. For a breather, we brought her down to the playground opposite our house. She enjoyed herself but there were a group of children aged about 8 to 10 years who were extremely curious about her appearance and started gossiping. They even went straight up to scrutinise her eye. URGHHHH. Even after I told them she’d injured her eye.

She felt rather self-conscious and down about it. My dad decided that there was nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about and that night, we brought her down for a walk. Another group of children. This time, they accepted the explanation, included her in their games and she healed a little inside, only to get it broken the next evening when she spotted a friend she frequently hangs out with. She called out for her friend, who saw that her eye wasn’t quite the same and hid behind her helper. Elise tried to engage her, showing a toy she had, but that failed too. I couldn’t take it and grabbed her away to play with something else. Secondhand heartbreak. 🙁 

Fun fact: Some adults can be idiots. At the mall, a stranger asked us, “Why is her eye like that?”, only to be shushed by his female counterpart who had about a hundred times more EQ than him. Some people think through their asses and talk without a filter. I snapped back, “关你屁事!(lit. None of your business!)“ but he was too far gone. At the bus interchange, a helpful uncle chimed in with his useless advice, “There’s a temple near Sheng Shiong, you should bring her there.” By that time, my social meter was reduced to negative and whatever I replied would have possibly sparked a physical fight. 

Two days ago, she had her stitches removed. It still looks like she has her eye closed because the swell has yet to subside and there’s discharge which constantly leaks from the wound and has to be cleaned. The wound needs about 6 weeks to heal so we can’t slot in her fake eye just yet. It’s a conformer like what she had last year. Post-op care has been a struggle (holding down her limbs, holding her head in place, cleaning in between her tightly clamped eyelid, prying open the eyelid to drip in medicine). Just this evening, her conformer popped out as I was cleaning it and we decided to leave it until tomorrow morning. 

At her teacher’s encouragement, we sent her back to school today! Her classmates are still too young to care about appearance. It’ll be a while before she looks like this again, but soon! The sad lesson is that how you look determines how you are treated in the world.