Finding Peace

After receiving calls about Emmett’s biting for the past two days, I was bracing myself to hear how his next victim got attacked when it turned out to be another teacher instead. “Hello Elise’s mummy, Elise’s contact lens fell out, could you come down to put it back in? We don’t know how to put it back. Please come down now.”

Elise has been using her prosthetic eye for about 2.5 years now.

She is unable to see through that eye and it is to make her appear as if she has two eyes like everyone else. It isn’t immediately noticeable, but as the prosthetic eye is merely a cover, the pupil does not move when her natural eye does. It does not need to be removed daily, but it can be taken out for cleaning. Sometimes, when she rubs on her eye too hard, it may fall out, which is what happened today.

It brought my mind back to the first time it happened when I was alone with her. One moment, she was playing around, and the other moment, she was staring at me with an empty socket. I freaked out and immediately called the prosthetic doctor while alerting my closer friends on WhatsApp “OMG ELISE’S EYE JUST DROPPED OUT WHAT DO I DO”. I was ready to bring her to the hospital so that the doctor could insert it back for her (and me). The doctor encouraged me to try it myself first, instructing me over the phone.

Back then, she was much younger and she would not stay still because she was traumatised by her experience of being held down forcibly for tests, eye dressing changes and her wound was possibly tender and healing. It was like pinning down a squealing piglet destined for slaughter. My feelings were a mish-mash of guilt, fear, shock and pity. Eventually, I slot it in without going to the hospital.

Emotionally, it was saddening for us to come to terms with the fact. Up till now, I don’t think my husband has seen her eye socket yet.

Back to today. The same situation occurred and I saw how shocked her teachers were. They managed to cover Elise’s eye and move her to the office before other children took notice. Her form teacher told me that she couldn’t bear to look. It’s completely natural for them to have that response and I don’t blame them. After all, it’s not something they encounter often and most people can’t deal with seeing something like that. If you’re curious, her eye socket has healed and it is neither bloody or has dangling veins. It appears as pink hollow flesh.

I washed it under running water before popping it back in. Over the years, both of us has gotten used to it. Elise has observed her appearance in the mirror without her prosthetic eye (I advised her not to, she insisted) and her reaction was not one of fear or disgust. It seems that she understands and is living without noticeable problems. She can run, kick a ball and balance on beams.  However, at 3 going on 4 years old, people around her are less likely to make snark remarks about appearance. We will cross that bridge when we get to it.

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.