Our daughter's strabismus surgery recovery

You may remember my post from almost a month ago about the eye surgery our little girl was having. She had an outward deviation in both eyes (with the right eye being the worst) that had gone unnoticed to us for nearly six years. I always saw it happen every now and then, she'd be focusing on something and one eye would try to follow the action happening elsewhere.

It got to the point where she was having headaches nearly every day (of course I thought she was just trying to get more headache medicine because who doesn't like white grape?), she could hardly read anything using both her eyes without it blurring (everything was fine with just one eye!) and a whole host of other issues all because her eyes didn't play well together.

So three weeks and five days ago she had surgery to correct her eyes. It was outpatient, only took a mere 30 minutes and she only had to miss two to three days of school as long as she felt OK.

You might remember me doing what I do best ... working myself up about the surgery and counting the minutes until it was over.

Her surgery was scheduled in the morning at 930, woo, we lucked out, she (I) wasn't stuck waiting until the afternoon. We arrived at the hospital at 730 where they promptly changed her into the cutest pair of kiddo scrubs I've ever seen ... that or my daughter is just made to wear scrubs. She looked like she belonged on Grey's Anatomy, the elementary addition.

She was given a coloring book, her hospital ID bracelet and we answered the same questions about 11 times, which, I'm not complaining about because it's just the staff making sure they have ALL the information they could possibly need.

We met with the nurse that would care for her in the room, we met with the nurse that would care for her in recovery, we met with her eye surgeon again and we met with the anesthesiologist and his nurse.

They all asked us the same questions five more times, making sure we didn't have a history of allergies, what did she have to eat last and when, what was the surgery she was having and what did we understand about it.

About 20 minutes before it was time to take her back they gave her a liquid medicine to help make her tired and silly.

It took about 10 minutes to kick in, but once it did boy was she goofy. She kept telling us she wanted to live in a house made of candy, but that it would be located inside the stomach of a teddy bear. We were laughing, for once, we felt a little less worried because it was almost here.

And then about five minutes before it was time to take her back she started to get overly anxious, she started to cry and ask us a million questions. She would dose off for two seconds, wake up and ask if the surgery was over. Why did she feel that way? Was the surgery over? Where was that teddy bear she wanted to live in? Was the surgery over?

Finally they arrived and wheeled her back. The doctor told us he would be back in 20-30 minutes to tell us how it went, then, she would wait in recovery for up to an hour to see how she was feeling and let her ease into waking up, then her bed would be wheeled back to us. She'd get a popsicle or slushie, and as long as she could keep that down and her eyes weren't bleeding too badly (you read that right, EYES BLEEDING), she could go home within an hour or so.

So we waited. We paced. We texted friends and family to update them because at least then we weren't counting down the minutes. And suddenly, it was time. Exactly 30 minutes after going into surgery her surgeon was in our room telling us it was a success, she did great, and her eye muscles were easily accessible which made things even smoother.

And there it was. The relief. All the sudden things felt lighter. Things felt ... normal again. The surgery was over! It was a success! It went smoothly! We were done!

Except ... we weren't. Between all my worrying about the surgery itself and her being put to sleep, I didn't bother to worry about what she would be like after. I didn't contemplate how I would feel seeing my six-year-old daughter wheeled back into the room with towels over her eyes to combat swelling, bruising and bleeding. I didn't anticipate seeing her tiny arm taped to a board with an IV and tubes coming out of every which way.

I didn't bother to worry about that, and it was worse than the surgery. At least the surgery was over with quickly, how long was she going to feel like this. And worse, did she feel as bad as she looked? They woke her up rather briskly, and sure enough, she did. She did feel as bad as she looked. She struggled to open her eyes, she cried bloody tears from the pain and all she wanted was mom and dad to turn the lights off and let her close her eyes.

She drank her slushie. She kept it down. Around 90 minutes later we were placing our sweet little girl in the car (with a brand new pair of super sweet giant black sunglasses to block the light), while she danced between crying in pain and falling asleep.

Once we got her home we carried her to bed right away. We pulled down all the blinds and we snuggled her up with her favorite blankets and stuffed animals. We got her more slushies and popsicles and we kept a cold rag over her eyes ... pumping her full of Tylenol every four hours to the minute. And I'd like to say it worked, but I still don't think Tylenol does a damn thing, and judging from her crying in pain, she would agree with me.

The informational sheet said she would be in pain for the rest of the day, but that she should feel a big recovery the next day. Possibly because I hadn't even thought about recovery would be like, I doubted even more the next day would just magically be "better."

But it was, somehow. She woke up her regular self. She wanted to go to school, she hates missing art class, but was still too sensitive to the light, so we brought art class to her. We purchased canvases and dozens of colors and brushes, she spent her afternoon sitting in the semi-dark living room painting holiday canvases and begging us to let her go to school tomorrow.

So we did.

Her eyes looked like raw meat. They were red and swollen and slightly bruised, but she promised us she wasn't in any pain. We talked to the teacher about her surgery, about her not overexerting her eyes and we told Pear Bear to go to the nurse and call us if anything hurt even the slightest bit.

I had my phone in my hand the entire day. I waited for the call. Surely if her eyes looked that bad they had to feel that bad, right? I guess wrong.

She made it through school flawlessly. She ran off her bus smiling, telling me everyone wanted to know where she was and if her eyes hurt and how cool she was to be so strong.

The first week after surgery was hard. Her right eye deviated the most so it was overcorrected during the surgery. (Eyes muscles generally pull outward as they heal, so sometimes the surgeon will overcorrect an eye to make sure it's straight once it's fully healed up).

Our little girl who had this slight outward deviation, one hardly anyone noticed, now had one eye that occasionally looked too inward. My husband and I tried not to talk about it, neither one of us wanted to admit what we both were thinking "what if we made the wrong decision, her eyes are WORSE and she has to have another surgery?" I began thinking "why didn't I push for therapy more, for exercises, why didn't I fight more."

And then, slowly, after a week and a half or so, we didn't notice her eye doing that anymore. My husband and I exchanged glances once again ... were we just trying to be positive, or had her eyes actually improved? And it wasn't because we'd grown accustomed to it, it was because it wasn't doing it. Her eyes were straight.

She's had one check up so far with the eye surgeon and her eyes are already working together better than before. She was able to read an extra two lines down on the eye chart with both eyes than she'd be able to prior to the surgery. We take her back in 10 days for another check in to make sure they're where they should be, but somehow, after all the drama (maybe some of it made by me), we're back to normal.

Whatever normal is, anyway.

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