The story of Noah having to get glasses – Brisbane Australia.

“Mumeee….. MumEEE!” I heard as I was feeding our 3 month old one afternoon. Our two year old toddler, Noah, was awake from his nap and letting me know with his insistent calling from across the house. It took me a few minutes to finish with his little brother and then get to him. As soon as I opened the door I knew something was wrong.

Noah looked up at me from his cot; his usually straight beautiful brown eyes were crooked- the left eye turned right in. I shouted “Noah” and grabbed his face. He smiled up at me, “Two Mummies” he said. I hugged him and looked again. I thought maybe I had been mistaken but no, his eye was turned all the way in, the other one moving from side to side independently. I ran to the phone, carrying him, and called our GP. The receptionist said she wasn’t in today but I guess she could tell from the tone in my voice that I was worried so she put me through to another doctor.

Noah was squirming in my arms so I put him down. He tried to walk over to his toys but he had his head on an angle and he staggered sideways a bit. “Two excavators” he said “Two balls”. The other doctor came to the phone. I explained what was going on and that he was having trouble walking straight and asked if I should come in. She said “No, go straight to the hospital”. She asked me which one I would take him to and she said she would let them know I was coming.

I then called my husband. This is probably where I started to feel myself getting really upset. He said he would meet me there. I scooped up the baby and Noah and was heading out the door when the phone rang- I don’t remember why I stopped to answer it but I did. It was the doctor- she said “I think the other hospital will be closer- you should go there instead”. I told her I was going to the Royal, it was about the same travelling time from our house and my husband was meeting me there. We ran to the car.

It wasn’t until I was speeding down the road that I realised that something really bad could be happening – the doctor had taken the time to ring back to tell me to take another route so every second must count… I drove a little faster. I talked to Noah the whole time thinking that I had to keep him with me. Was it his brain? Oh no, I thought. I might lose him. “Two trucks” he said “Two Mummies”.

We pulled up outside the front of the hospital and ran in; the doctor had phoned ahead so they were expecting us. They were calm which helped to calm me down. Noah wanted to play with the toys. My husband said “his eyes look okay now”. I looked. They seemed much better.

The triage nurse looked him over and soon a kind young male doctor came over and took us into a room. He asked me what happened and I explained. Then he started asking me if any other things had happened recently. I remembered then that he had been blinking a lot as if things were out of focus. He had recently also started to wear sunglasses a lot because he cried whenever we went outside or were in the car. He had had a fever about a week before. And some spots on his back but we were pretty sure these were mosquito bites… What could all this mean?

Another doctor came in, asking all the same questions. They put a few sticky clear patches on his arms and hands explaining they were just in case they needed to put in a drip. They talked about doing a MRI and blood tests. Noah was so cheerful and happy to be fussed over by these nice people. The doctors left for a bit and a lovely nurse came over and asked me if Noah might like to watch a movie. His eyes lit up. She brought in a portable DVD player and put on Bob the Builder. What a clever lady! Now Noah was in heaven!

They watched him and took blood pressure, and then got out some bubbles and blew them into the air, while shining a torch into his eyes and watching his visual tracking. Very clever. They put stickers on his knees and asked him to take them off with his opposite hand- checking his motor control- also very clever. To Noah these lovely people were smiling attentive adults with movies and bubbles and stickers. Then they asked him if he would like to go for a little run down the corridor. He was off the bed and down the corridor like a shot. He ran down and back and down and back. He was very pleased with himself.

After a few hours of repeated tests they said that it didn’t look like meningitis. I was so glad they hadn’t said what they had been thinking! They said to go home and come back in two days time or sooner if he showed any unusual signs or behaviours. He was fine all weekend and on Monday they gave him the all clear but gave us a referral for a Paediatric Ophthalmologist to check his eyes. We waited for the letter to tell us when that would be – the letter took a week to arrive and the appointment was going to be in 6 weeks.

When the time came to go into the city to see the specialist I had a sinking feeling in my stomach all day. I wondered if I was just nervous because I am not used to driving into the city, but decided I was really quite nervous that there would be something wrong with his eyes.

When we walked into the ophthalmologist’s surgery we had to again see a triage nurse first to answer all the same questions. But she asked a new one – she asked if I had noticed in any photos if Noah’s eyes were not straight. I thought about it. “You know, I think I have seen something not quite right about his eyes a few times in pictures” I said. She nodded and said it’s often easier to tell from pictures. I thought about it some more.

Finally it was time to see the doctor and we were greeted by a very serious and not too personable woman. I guess I was expecting her to be child friendly and have some cool tricks of the trade to get him to do what she wanted and have some fun as well. She had a different tactic. She didn’t say anything or ask questions, just got out her goggle things and instruments and looked into his eyes. Occasionally she would say “sit still” or make a high pitched chattering noise to get his attention. He did sit very still – I think he was a bit frightened by the new lady with the strange goggles.

Then she asked me to lay him down and hold him so he wouldn’t move. She had drops in her hand and as she squeezed them into his pried open eyes she said “This will sting him”. And boy did it! Then she said “go wait outside – the drops will open his eyes up”. So out we went. I was kind of relieved. I thought that was fairly easy and maybe everything would be fine.

After about half an hour we went back in and she got out some different goggles and had another look into his eyes. He was rather squirmy this time so I tried to point out interesting things for him to look at around the room. She took photos of his eyes with a very large looking camera device and looked through his eyes with a variety of round discs. Squirm, squirm.

At last she wrote some things on a piece of paper and handed it to me with a short comment “He needs glasses”. I was a bit shocked to hear this and although I thought of lots of questions afterwards I only managed to ask “How long does he need to wear them?” thinking she might say a couple of hours a day for a couple of months to correct the problem.. She answered “From the moment he wakes up until he falls asleep”. I was stunned. “Forever?” I managed to ask. She said “Forever is a long time. But he will need to wear glasses for the rest of his life”. In a state of shock, I scooped him up, thanked the doctor and walked out in a daze.

I met my Mum who was looking after our baby in the waiting room. She asked me what was wrong. I told her. She looked so sad as well. Then she smiled hopefully and said “You know what? He doesn’t need surgery; the news could have been worse”. She was right- the news could have been much worse. It wasn’t his brain and he didn’t need surgery or any other invasive procedure. We would have to look into the glasses thing and find out more about it.

On the way home I realised that now I had to tell my husband, which I really didn’t want to have to do. I thought I would wait until he got home from work and then tell him in person. But he called the second I walked through the door. He was silent when I told him. I told him what mum had said and he agreed it could have been worse. That night we started to think about the things he would not be able to do. “He won’t be able to play soccer” my husband lamented. “He will never get to be a pilot now”. I was just worried that the glasses might make him stand out from his peers and become a barrier for social interactions and for him to make friends. Life was going to be harder for him now. The biggest thing to come to terms with was that neither of us had guessed that he had a problem with his sight.

I found a lovely optometrist that a friend whose daughter wears glasses recommended. They were amazing. They explained everything to us about what was happening with his eyes and what might happen in the future, they really translated everything for us. We got some snazzy little glasses and they suit him so well. He has been great at keeping them on as well, which we take as a sign that they are really helping him.

The other thing is we get so much more eye contact now. He looks at us when he talks and he gets frustrated a lot less. He is a much more happy and settled little toddler now and seems to approach everything with a skip in his step – now that he can see the world! His world has changed so much for the better now. And he will be able to play soccer. There are plenty of soccer players who wear glasses. He probably won’t be able to become a pilot but there are about a million other things he might rather do anyway!

When I think back I really believe that a part of me has known for a long time that something wasn’t quite right with Noah’s eyes but I never gave this feeling very much thought. I think sometimes a mother’s intuition knows things that our sensible self talks us out of believing. The moment I realised that everything was going to be okay was when Noah and I were cuddling together one morning and he looked into my eyes through his tiny green specs, held each side of my face with his sticky little hands and whispered “I see you Mummy”.