Yesterday I Wore An Eye Patch
Yesterday we had a patching party in our amblyopia support group. Wearing an eye patch is the occlusion therapy often prescribed by doctors to treat amblyopia. Some children wear the patch for one or two hours and others must wear a patch most of the day, up two 8 hours or so.
In our support group we were having a "Pumpkin Patch" party. Generally, when we have these kind of parties where parents and kiddos get together, I require the parents to wear an eye patch. Wearing an eye patch for a short period of time is the best way to truly understand what it is you are asking your child to do and to understand some of the behaviors your child may exhibit while patching. For most parent's ironically it is quite the eye opener. It was for me yesterday as well.
Now while I've worn a patch before, I've never worn it for as long as I did yesterday (about an hour) nor have I participated amongst such activity while wearing the patch.
The first thing I noticed was the feeling of being disoriented and even a bit dizzy. I've done this before, like I said, so I knew that would go away as I begin to orient myself to the new look of things. After about 5 minutes, I was feeling better.
The second thing I noticed, was that about half my world was suddenly unaccounted for. I put the patch on my right eye, so everything to my right didn't disappear, it just become unknown. We were having a party, so there was a lot of commotion and sound going on. I felt quite vulnerable, so I started twisting my head and without even realizing it I put myself in situations where I knew there wasn't anything on the right of me. After a while I got a little bit more comfortable and enjoyed participating.
Then something happened. I was completely caught off guard when I shadow came over the right side of me and then I turned to my right as quickly as I could to see what it was. My heart actually raced a little and I could feel a rush of adrenaline. I was unsure if something was going to fall on me, or if I was going to collide with something. I was relieved to see it was a father of one of the other kids. I could tell he was startled by my reaction as well. Probably because he was patching his left eye and I was on the left of him! From the outside it probably looked quite comical. The dad said to me, "Now I understand why my son acts the way he does when he is patching."
I didn't have any other crazy incidents like that one. I felt a little silly reacting the way I did, but it was a reflex, an innate reaction to fear. The party was almost over and I couldn't wait to take my patch off! And when I did, I again felt dizzy and disoriented.
After speaking with another parent, they said, "Wow that was tough and of course, it's nothing like when my child patches, because I can see out of my eye and he can't." The truth is we can't really experience the patching like our child does, but we can certainly get an idea of what it is like. If you've never worn a patch, I would encourage you to try it. Wear it and try doing the things you normally do. You will certainly have a new appreciation for what your child deals with.
Let me say, during the party, these kids had a terrific time. The decorated pumpkins, threw gourds in buckets, played games and all of these things while wearing an eye patch! They are real patching heroes!
If your child is new to patching, or is having a difficult time adjusting I hope this experience will help you guide your child safely and comfortable through the patching experience. I also hope it will make us think twice when our kids act a little strange or even scared while patching. Occlusion therapy works, but it is much more than putting the patch on. That's just the beginning. Wearing it is the real challenge.