When my daughter, Olivia, was 11 years old, she asked me to take her to see an eye doctor. Olivia had passed all the vision screenings at school and her eyesight had never been an issue during her well-child visits. So after a routine eye exam, when the doctor asked Olivia how long she had been complaining about not being able to see, I felt blindsided.
I had always turned to Olivia when I needed help to read a label or make out something small. The only time I remembered her complain about not being able to see was when she had water in her eyes after getting out of the pool.
But even I could see during the examination that Olivia had a problem. She couldn’t even see the biggest letters on the vision chart with her left eye. The doctor told us that she had amblyopia, a rare condition that can only be detected by an eye exam.
It turns out that Olivia had probably been born with amblyopia, also known as lazy eye. Because she couldn’t see out of her left eye, Olivia’s brain shut that eye off like a computer. She learned to see through her strong eye, which was 20/20. That’s why she couldn’t see when she got water in that eye. To pass the school screenings, Olivia memorized the lines with her right eye then repeated them for her left eye.
As a parent, I was devastated when the doctor told me that I had waited too long to fix Olivia’s vision. And more so when he told Olivia that she would never drive a bus or fly a plane. He prescribed her a pair of glasses and told her to come back in a year.

After taking Olivia to another doctor for a second opinion, we found hope for Olivia’s vision. By wearing a patch over her healthy eye for two hours a day, she could strengthen her weak eye.  We started seeing results immediately. After several months, Olivia’s vision continued to improve. It’s not perfect, but with her glasses, her eyesight is good enough to drive a bus or fly a plane if that’s what she chooses to do. That was good news to me.

— Lori Mendoza
a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon

 

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