"I want, I want, I want ... but that's crazy"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A different perspective

My daughter Gin (age 12) and I spent about an hour tonight just sitting and talking about the time her eye got injured and what it means for her future.

It started when she sat down to tell me about a silly game they'd played in gym class today, which involved bumping a volleyball to a player, who then had to hit it and then run around the bases while the other players passed it, then one player had to throw the ball into the basketball hoop to get the runner out. Gin said she was designated to shoot into the basketball hoop, and out of 15 tries, she didn't make it once.

I told her, "That's no surprise. You can't shoot into a basketball hoop if you have no depth perception."

I might have told the story of her injury before, but I'll tell it again anyway.

She was five years old, and it was the summer after kindergarten, shortly before her sixth birthday. She'd just gotten a new kitten early for her birthday that week.

Unbeknownst to me, she'd gone into the garage and picked up the metal stay out of a windshield wiper from some rubbish out there. She took it with her when she went across the street to play with her friends.

At some point she sort of forgot about the metal stay and started playing on the swing while eating a blue sherbet pop. The neighbor's four-year-old boy found it on the ground and - being a boy - began to whip it around like it was a sword. Gin was swinging and by freak accident, she swung directly into its path. It pierced clear through her eye, ripping a hole in the cornea, the lens and piercing through the retinal wall at the back of her eye. I was to learn later that another quarter of an inch of penetration could have killed her instantly.

The neighbor saw that she'd been hurt but didn't know to what degree. She walked Gin back home, as Gin cried hysterically, her face covered in blue goo.

All I could get out of her was that she'd been poked in the eye, and I asked her to calm down as I tried to clean the goo off her face from the sherbet. Then the neighbor showed me what had poked her, and I carefully lifted her eyelid to get a closer look. I could see what looked like a blob of clear jelly on her eye. I looked again at the thin, flat, long sliver of metal.

"This isn't good," I said.

I grabbed Munch, then age 3, and put the girls in the car, calling my ex-husband to say that I was dropping Munch off with him and taking Gin to the hospital.

In the emergency room, fortunately there was a reputable eye surgeon on call. He rushed her off to emergency surgery right away.

He removed the lens, which was irreparably damaged, and stitched up the cornea. After surgery, he told me that the best case scenario was that her eye might look somewhat normal, but she'd never see out of it.

She spent the night in the hospital and the next morning we were to take her to Kettering to see a retinal surgery specialist. She used laser surgery to repair the hole at the back of the eye.

Gin ended up coming out of it better than anyone expected. The damage to the retina occurred in the one small place that would not damage her ability to see, so she can see colors and light and vague shapes - just without a lens in her eye, she cannot focus at all.

With her good eye, she sees perfectly, just without any depth perception, which of course requires both eyes. For most activities, her brain has been trained to read what she sees and *interpret* depth - I explained to her that it's much like paintings that illustrate depth with layering of objects and diminishing perspective. For most things it works just fine. She rides her bike, and she can walk up and down stairs, because her brain knows there is depth, and it's not a flat surface. However, for things such as shooting baskets, where it's necessary to actually perceive the distance, it's not so good. She can learn with much practice, but she hasn't really worked at that, so she'll not be much of a shooter. More difficult is where she's playing a sport where a ball is flying at her - such as baseball or catching a pass in basketball. She can't judge from experience as the ball is constantly moving, and the depth illusion from perceived size doesn't work because there's not enough difference for her to see it. (A ball looks pretty much the same size when it is one foot from your face as it does when it's two feet away. Without depth perception, a ball flying at your face is especially dangerous.)

So tonight, we were talking about when the time comes for her to drive a car. Fortunately, it is possible that a special, powerful contact lens will allow her to gain focus - and thus depth perception - in her injured eye. We'l see when the time comes. If not, she can still probably drive, she'll just have to be extra careful about it.

I'll warn you when she's on the road.


Anonymous said...

Yikes! My heart kind of fell into my gut as I was reading about the accident -- can't imagine something that horrifying happening to someone so young.

Hope that special super contact lens comes out soon!

Techman39 said...

I was so moved by your recounting of this story. Parenting can be a wild ride- but worth every second- (obviously). Thank you for sharing... It took me back to times with my own children... Crashes on the bike, ect. All the best in your parenting venture. - consider me a fan of your writing...