Fabulously Five

Growing up, I always knew I wanted to have children because of how cuddly and squishy infants are. I also used to tell others that I only liked babies because preschoolers were little brats. There is a Korean description – 미운다섯살 – that translates to “Detestable Five”.

I remember holding Elise as a newborn and wishing she would stay tiny for longer. Nope, it didn’t happen. She is now five. 😭 Having been propelled into big sister status at two meant a lot of my attention was naturally diverted. She sometimes gets into physical altercations with Emmett, yet she is fiercely protective of him everywhere else. 🙄

Generally, she is quite a pleasant child to be around! I was worried that she would be alienated due to her condition but Elise is strong indeed. She doesn’t let it get in her way. When unknown kids at the playground discuss her eye in front of her, I get infuriated on her behalf, yet she just brushes it off and tells them it’s her magic eye.She is proactive in making new friends and I always know she’ll do fine in new classes. She doesn’t mind making herself look silly if makes others laugh. Her repertoire includes the “Rody Dance”, inspired by the robot in Pororo and an incredulous “huh, WHAT?!” that comes complete with an eye roll. One of the things I like the most about her is that she’s not demanding. She wanted a unicorn rainbow cake, but lazy mama here just got her to choose her a tiny cake off the shelf from Chateraise, and they surely didn’t have what she wanted. Neither did she ask where her birthday gift was. It is nowhere, because I buy gifts randomly so they don’t expect presents each birthday.She’s also an animal lover and likes “cats and dogs but cats a little bit more”. Her current ambition is to become a zookeeper and she is prepared to do the dirty work of clearing animal poop in addition to caring for them. Let’s see how that goes!

Elise’s Prosthetic Eye Change

Unlike real eyes, prosthetic eyes don’t grow, and in children who grow quickly, they need to be replaced once every few years. Elise’s first prosthetic eye was done in April 2017. We observed that the prosthetic eye kept moving out of alignment. After a consultation with Dr Ganga, he advised us to get a new one fitted.

Prosthetic eyes are handmade, and the process requires roughly three working days, including the time it takes for curing and drying. We got ours done with the same ocularist at NUH, Dr Sue.

The clinic is a small enclosed space featuring some prosthetic samples. The more complicated eye prosthetics include those made of latex to mimic the flesh surrounding the eye.

This is the imprint of Elise’s eye cavity and this is what the base of the prosthetic eye has to look like in order for it to fit snugly. I didn’t take a photo, but this was done by pouring a mixture through a mould that was fitted onto her eye cavity.

This is a brief summary and I can’t fully convey the full experience as 80% of the time involved waiting – Elise playing or on the phone watching YouTube, me mindlessly checking social media. On one particular day, I packed in a huge sticker book and other activities and my shoulder nearly gave way because I carried a tote bag.

It involves a lot of fitting and adjustment to get the angle and position right. Mainly, what we want to do is to determine the specific placement of the pupil, whether it should be right smack in the centre, or a little nearer to the nose.

Time for a #momjoke – this is Elise side-eyeing her eye. Every eye is handmade and it’s not one-size-fits-all. It’s not oval shaped, but it has a little pointed tip at the top so it holds in place.

Next, Dr Sue adds details to the eye using pigments to make it more realistic. Most of the time for Asian children, their pupils are black. Westerners have more complicated eye details and there’s a technology that can print the pupil onto the base, but it’s a film and likely isn’t as lasting.

Dr Sue mostly handles Asian patients, and paints the details by hand. This won’t be Elise’s last prosthetic eye, and we will likely have to fabricate a few more eyes before she reaches adulthood.

One thing Dr Sue advised was not to remove the prosthetic eye regularly as it affects her lower eyelid and its capability to hold the eye.

This is how she looks like now with the new eye! Due to the better fit, it doesn’t move around that much anymore. It has limited functions, like it can’t follow along when she rolls her eyes, something she does pretty often nowadays, but it’ll do!

How Emmett almost went to Heaven

If you took certain parts of my life and filmed it, they might fit nicely into a K-drama. From having a cystectomy to remove giant ovarian cysts, meeting my hub online, not seeing how he looked like until the day we met in real life, to Elise’s retinoblastoma, it’s like God was trying to be funny.

Emmett used to cling onto me when he was in the water until I put on arm floats on him and he realised that he could swim. Relying on arm floats can be dangerous and give a false sense of confidence. Sure enough, he’s been playing in the medium 0.9M pool with the bigger kids while I watch from a near distance. Yesterday, we ended our swim session earlier than usual. After a quick shower, I offered to let them play at the playground. Elise walked ahead, I followed with the stroller and Emmett trailed behind. Or so I thought. 99% of the time he’s either in the stroller or walking ahead. Not long after, I heard a woman shout, “有小孩跳进去!” “A kid jumped in!”. I turned around and what did I see?Emmett in his clothes with mask on, submerged in the pool with the water above his head. As opposed to drowning scenes in shows, drowning victims do not flail their arms around and shout for help.

Emmett was as still as a statue (hurhur punny) and he neither showed any sign of struggle, nor attempt to float. I may not be an expert swimmer, but I can do a decent breaststroke. Besides, I wasn’t going to wait for someone else to swim across the length of the pool to save him. I would love to say I dived in immediately, but my logical mind knew that removing my phone and slingbag wouldn’t take more than a second. I hopped into the pool and brought him up to safety. We were two soaking wet bodies with no spare clothes, but we were alive.

He didn’t get any water in his lungs, a fact that was confirmed by him being very alert and conscious and wailing. 🙄 I took off his wet top and brought them both for an ice cream treat by the roadside and then for dinner. 🙄 Emmett, giving us heart attacks since 2017.