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Posted on 01-10-2018

Happy New Years everyone.  It’s 2018 and time to share the story of another patient I’ve had the privilege to work with.  This young man was a teenager.  He was a big and burly young man who came in and admitted he “wasn’t buying what we were saying”.  He knew that he had a “lazy eye”, but he “saw just fine”.  Now over the years, Dr. Polec has given me several nicknames, one of them is the ‘teen whisperer’.  I happen to be fairly good at understanding the frustrations and fears that many of my teenage patients are going through.  Often, over a lifetime of not being able to understand or explain what they are seeing or why things just seem more difficult for them by the time kids have become teens, they have just become resigned to how they see, and don’t really think anything will change.

I started out by agreeing with him that he ‘saw’ fine.  His acuity was 20/20.  What his lazy eye really was is called Intermittent Alternating Exotropia.  In normal terms, sometimes he used both eyes together, sometimes or one or the other would drift outward, but each eye saw clearly.  “Ok, so what?”  I suggested since his mom had decided to pursue this, why don’t we just make the best of it, because he’s stuck with me either way.  I’ve learned over the years that there is little point in trying to convince a frustrated, annoyed teenage boy that I was going to be able to help him.  I just present it as ‘let’s just hang out and see what happens’. Over the course of a couple of weeks, he was beginning to develop better control of his visual system.  We would talk during his exercises, and I would explain why I had him doing the various activities.  He always seemed quiet around me, but was less and less frustrated by what I asked him to do.  By around the 4th week of treatment, his mom asked me to call her.  When I did, she had asked me what I did to her son?  Her typically quiet, almost brooding teenage son had begun to joke around with her; he was laughing more often, and wanted to try out for the football team.

Towards the end of his treatment, he came in one week and told me while on a trip to Sedona with his family, he was finally able to go down Slide Rock!  He said now that he had learned how to use his eyes together things were not as scary as they were before, and he’s really able to have a lot more fun!!

It’s enormously gratifying to be able to help teenagers like this learn to use their visual system more effectively, and watch them come out of their shells and being to feel more confident in the world.

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