Last week I took my children for their sports physical. I remember it was Thursday, and I was in a hurry. My boys were not happy to be going to the doctor. The sun was shining outside and summer was almost over.
My youngest son was doing the standard vision test. He had already done this test once in May, when he was hit in the eye with a frisbee and taken to the emergency room, and again in July, when he was taken for a follow-up to his doctor. That black eye wasn't any worse than the others he has had over his twelve years, which have been numerous. He is a constant collection of scrapes and bruises, bearing witness to his love of life as a boy. I have learned to take these bumps along the road in stride, to make sure he wears his helmet and that I have an icepack in the freezer. As he put the pallet over his right eye and the doctor asked him to read the letters on the chart, he said he couldn't. I remember thinking he was joking as usual, and telling him to stop. It was then that we realized that he wasn't joking at all. The vision in his left eye was clouded over by a black veil. He could only see out of 1/4 of his eye, and when we asked him how long this had been going on he had no idea. He had been to busy to notice. I felt the hairs on my head stand up and my heart sink.
This began the fast and furious odyssey that took us to Denver to a retinal specialist. My son's retina was severely torn and detached from his eye. He would lose his vision and the eye itself without surgery. He had surgery 4 days ago, his doctor surrounded by several residents and med students. His was a rare case in a child. He was quite the event. In my nearly 14 years as a parent, I can say that there is nothing worse than seeing your child put to sleep. My eldest had three surgeries to correct a severed tendon in his right hand when he was only six. I remember the first surgery, when I accompanied him into the operating room for the anaesthesia. I was holding his chubby hand and trying to contain my tears. I looked up for only a moment, at the clock I think, and the nurse next to me said Jonah dorme. I looked down and there was my son, just a step away from that place I could never reach. I broke down right there.
This surgery was nearly four hours long. It was a combination of several techniques to try and save his eye and vision. It took two hours for him to awake from the anaesthesia, and he had to remain face down for the first night. The day after the operation, his dressings were removed and he opened his little twelve year old eye. After a moment of confusion, he said I can see you Mom.
We are home now. His recovery will be long and slow, and I must put drops into his eye every hour, but he is not in pain and he can see. I am once again aware of the brutal surprises around every corner when you have children, and the courage and strength that comes from someplace you never knew was there when called upon. And the joy and grace of my son, who through all the prodding and poking and needles and stitches in his eyeball continues to be adamant about only one thing... There is no way I'm wearing glasses. It's contacts or nothing.