My name is Susie, and my husband’s name is Paul. Collectively, Ezra is our fifth child. We are a blended family, and I am a “geriatric” mother, an endearing term. I admit I feel it some days as our four older children range from 15-22 years old. It’s a lot of life. Every day.
Ezra is three years old now, and he’s gorgeous. He will tell you that when you meet him. Hmm. A little indulgent, we are.
And with good reason. Ezra is a poster child for the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at the UVM Children’s Hospital. He was born early with apnea. I still wake up at night to make sure he’s breathing. He’s also something of a celebrity at the Pediatric Ophthalmology Department, where he sees Dr. Sujata Singh.
Ezra has an eye condition called strabismus. As Dr. Singh describes it, strabismus(from the Greek word for “squinting”) is the medical term for any eye misalignment. It affects about four percent of the population.
“Accommodative esotropia, or crossed eyes, is the most common cause of eyes crossing inward, being the diagnosis in about 50 percent of these children. Many children with accommodative esotropia end up growing out of their glasses, especially if their prescription is not high. Children often do well and develop good, equal vision. Their chances for this is highest if they’re treated at a younger age.”
Ezra got his first pair of glasses at seven months after his pediatrician noticed a problem at his 3-month checkup. His eyes were not straight. As Dr. Singh explained to us, “this was a problem because he still needed to develop his vision. Children need time (until age 10 years old) and certain conditions to develop good eyesight. Those conditions include two clear and equal images (one from each eye) that are transmitted by the eyes to the brain. The brain uses those images to build vision. If the eyes are misaligned, they bring two different images to the brain, a conundrum which the brain resolves by suppressing vision development in one eye, or selecting one eye to use at a time, rather than using both at the same time.”
Ezra or Harry Potter?
In his glasses, Ezra looked like Harry Potter. We adapted quickly to it as an extension of him and part of his personality. I vividly remember when he first saw his hand through his new glasses and the look of wonder on his face. I also remember when he first tried to go down steps, turning around six feet before the steps because he had so little depth perception, and crawling backwards so slowly. As Dr. Singh explains: “When we gave him glasses with his correct prescription, they did the work of giving his brain clear images, and his eyes uncrossed.”
Patching Ezra’s Good Eye
We learned that Ezra needed a thicker glasses prescription in one eye compared to the other. “Without glasses,” Dr. Singh told us, “the image from one eye becomes blurrier than the other when it gets to the brain. In order to prevent the brain suppressing vision development in the blurry eye (amblyopia), we have to patch his ‘good’ eye. That way, the brain has no other option but to use his blurry eye.”
I cried when we had to put a patch on his weaker eye. He’d been through enough already. I didn’t want him to be sad or feel different. I even felt some kind of loss when he had to change his glasses. We got bright red ones. They stood out and so did Ez Pez, Ezra Bean or Ezzy as we refer to him often.
Eye Surgery for Ezra
We found out that the glasses and the patch were not enough. We learned from Dr. Singh that “in the classic fashion of children with conditions like Ezra’s, the misalignment came back. In order to encourage his brain to use both eyes together, he needs surgery to move his eye muscles, and re-align his eyes.”
That’s when I really cried. Before the surgery, Paul played with him in the waiting room, putting on scrubs and getting him used to the mask for the gas. I couldn’t go in. Paul told me that Ezra wouldn’t give the play mask back to the anesthesiologist, so they attached the gas to it and Ezra fell asleep holding his own mask to his face. He said it was touchingly funny; he was crying, too. And we sobbed when we saw him after his surgery. The bloodshot eyes and bruising – and a docile little boy whimpering.
Ezra just got his third pair of glasses — blue ones — because his eyelashes were so long, they were sticking to his lenses. He puts them on and takes them off himself. He enjoys seeing Dr. Singh and Sheila when he has appointments. He’ll be seeing them for a long time. But that’s okay. They are really good people, and Ezra is beautiful in his glasses.
Susie Posner-Jones works at the University of Vermont Medical Center as Director of Development for Population Health. She lives in Williston with her husband, Paul, and a varying number of their children due to their unusual lifecycle.