Olivia was born 9 days before her due date, in early November. Every parent prepares for his or her new baby to arrive. We made sure the nursery was decorated with pooh bear everywhere, that her crib was built (even though we knew she wouldn’t actually be in the crib for a while) and our house was as baby proofed as possible! No matter how ready we thought we were for her arrival, nothing would prepare us for what was to come. I had a pretty uneventful delivery. Olivia was perfect. However, hours after meeting our gorgeous new daughter, my husband and I noticed that her right eye turned outward when we looked at her. We immediately brought the baby’s eye to the doctor’s attention and we were assured that she simply had a bit of a lazy eye and that this condition was very common for newborns. We accepted the doctor’s diagnosis, took a deep breath and took Olivia home.
In the weeks that followed, Olivia’s eye continued to turn outward and we knew something just was not quite right. We made sure to bring up Olivia’s “lazy eye” at her first pediatrician appointment. The doctor assured us again that her eye looked perfectly normal. She diagnosed Olivia with Exophoria of the right eye and we were told, yet again, that her eye was healthy and that this common issue would resolve on its own. Despite bringing Olivia’s eye up at every pediatrician appointment, her condition continued to go unnoticed. It was not until I brought Olivia to the pediatrician for a ‘sick visit’ at 2 months old, that a different pediatrician took extra care to check out her eye. I remember the doctor looking Olivia sideways and asking “has her eye always looked like that?” I responded with an enthusiastic nod, happy that finally someone was taking her condition seriously. However, at the time, I didn’t realize how serious this condition was going to be.
The doctor did a quick eye exam on Olivia, which revealed a dark spot behind her eye. We were then referred to a pediatric optomologist. I will admit that I went to the optomologist believing that Olivia’s right eye was simply a little bit weaker than her left. I expected to be given a regiment and plan of how we could strengthen her eye to make it look just like the other. I was thrown completely off guard by the news we received.
The pediatric optomologist diagnosed Olivia with a congenital cataract that was caused by Persistent Hyperplastic Primary Vitreous, otherwise known as Persistent Fetal Vasculature (PFV). The doctor explained to us that this condition caused Olivia to not fully develop the sight she needs in her eye and that the cataract was blocking a lot of the light she needs to see. She let us know that surgery was an option and recommended we see a second opinion. As soon as the doctor walked out of the room, I broke down in tears. The thought of Olivia feeling any sort of pain or being at even the smallest disadvantage in life terrified me.
That same day, we all drove down to the other side of the state to see the second opinion. At this appointment, it was confirmed that Olivia would definitely have a road filled with drops, corrective lenses and patching but it was still unclear if surgery would be necessary.
So, we packed up the car and drove to a retinal specialist in Long Island, NY to get our third and final opinion on how to proceed. We were praying and hoping that we could rehabilitate Olivia’s eye without needing to put her under anesthesia and put her through surgery at such a young age. After doing an eye exam and looking at a picture of Olivia’s eye, the surgeon immediately and confidently proclaimed that surgery was not the back of the eye, the doctor confirmed that surgery was not only an option for her but that it was necessary. In order for Olivia to have any hope of gaining vision in that eye and correcting her sight, the stalk caused by the PFV needed to be severed and her retina needed to be reattached. Our surgeon was very reassuring that Olivia was a great candidate for this surgery and that it was the best thing for her. We packed up our 2 and half-month-old baby and headed home. Our little warrior was ready for surgery.
“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” — Dory