Paul and I learned a hard lesson this week, one that I hope you can avoid. Here's what happened:
Last month, our son developed a watery, itchy red eye over the weekend. We took him to the pediatrician on Monday and our suspicions were confirmed: it was pinkeye. He couldn't go back to school until he had at least 24 hour's worth of antibiotic eye drops. The doctor also mentioned that we should go ahead and use these drops on our daughter as needed, since pinkeye is extremely contagious.
His pinkeye cleared up in a couple of days, but he kept complaining that his eye was very sensitive to light. Hmm. I read all the fine print of side effects from the Tobramycin eye drops, but didn't remember seeing light sensitivity as one of them. I assumed it was from the pinkeye and would eventually go away.
No one else in the family ever developed pinkeye (although I was hyper-aware of every little itch in my eyes for days...sort of like when I was teaching and one of my students would have headlice and I couldn't stop scratching my head, sure that I had bugs crawling on my head, too.)
Well, the pinkeye came back in full force on Monday this week, as we made the two-hour drive to the space coast to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis lift off. By the time we parked our car and found a good spot on the river in Titusville to watch it, KID 1 could barely even open his sore eye. The good news is it was bright and sunny, a perfect day for a launch. It went up without a hitch and was an awesome sight to see!
When we got back home that night, I got out the Tobramycin drops and dosed his sore eye and his good eye (that's what you do for pinkeye) and sent him to bed. Paul and I decided that we should take him to our family eye doctor this time, worried that this could be some horrible deep-socket infection doing damage to our son's vision. I need to stop watching House.
The drama involved in our first appointment with the eye doctor was exasperating, but he eventually allowed the nurse to put drops in his eye (while I held his head back and restrained his arms...he managed to kick me in the shins several times before I got my leg wrapped over his leg the way the pediatrician's nurse does when we take him for shots. I wish I didn't have to know the best way to put a full body lock on my child, but there you go.) Everyone was assuming it was an infection until the doctor finally put the blacklight magnifier over his eye and said, "Oh, yeah. There's a foreign body in there." My heart clenched and I tried not to panic.
He allowed me to look through the magnifier and, sure enough, there was a spot on his iris, right at the lower edge. Turns out he had metal in his eye for over a month. The metal had come out, but it left rust in his eye which was preventing his eye from healing properly, leaving him susceptible to infection. We had to come back in the afternoon when another doctor was there who could remove the rust ring from our son's eye.
Really?! Rust in his eye?! We have to do all this again?! We went back and met with the second doctor who gave our son several doses of numbing drops, allowed him to feel the tiny brush he would use to brush away the rust in his eye, and then waited patiently for our son to cooperate while he stuck this little brush in his eye while holding absolutely still. After several threats and a bribe ("We'll have to hold you down and pry your eye open," "We'll have to take you to the hospital and give you gas to make you sleep so we can open your eye and remove the rust," "We won't be able to go camping next week if you have to have eye surgery,"...it was awful, to say the least), he eventually did cooperate, and it took all of two seconds (literally) to remove the rust.
He cried afterward but told us it didn't hurt. He just had to release some of that stress. Poor kid had dealt with this foreign object in his eye for over a month...I'm trying not to feel the heavy weight of guilt that is pressing on my mind. Why didn't I bring him in for a check when he kept complaining about light sensitivity?
Rachel and I were discussing this yesterday after it was all taken care of. We decided that we tend to want to believe that our kids are fine, since most of the time they are. We don't like to act like hypochondriacs...it doesn't go over well at the pediatrician's office. But in the end, no one else is going to be my child's advocate. If I end up with a reputation, so what? I will know that my child is healthy, with no broken bones or metal in his eye.
My advice to you:
1. Even if you know for sure it's pinkeye, go to the eye doctor. The pediatrician doesn't have the necessary equipment to see into the eye for a thorough examination. I'm not blaming our pediatrician. I just wish I had taken our son to the eye doctor in the first place.
2. Listen to your gut instinct, especially when it comes to your kids' health. If you think something is not quite right, have it checked. If it all turns out fine, your mind will be at ease. Who cares if the pediatrician's staff thinks you're a hypochondriac? You're single-handedly keeping them in business!