Ok… I’ve had a couple of posts here… and a couple of emails… asking me how we are able to have our 3 year old sit extremely still, get an eye drop in the Dr’s office, sit on his knees, put his chin on the machine, look at the blue light without budging, blinking, or moving, and let the Dr touch his eye (twice each time!) to get a PERFECT pressure reading… so here goes my best explanation of what EXACTLY we did:

First, we’ve been to the hospital 29 times!  Think about that (and I’m sure most of you reading this with children of your own KNOW what that means… 29 worrisome “nights before”… 29 “week’s” before the trip of worrying… 29 nightmare days of putting your child through poking, prodding, pulling, checking, blood pressure, temperature, strangers looking in his eyes (mainly because they are interested in such a rare disease – there is always … on every trip  at least one EXTRA person there like an intern, new nurse, new Dr., etc… who just wants to look into his eye with their light to “see” what congenital glaucoma actually looks like!).  Taking your child’s clothes off and making him wear one of those blue, yellow, or white hospital gowns (we actually have several at our home now and he like to dress in them sometimes!  We let him, of course, and we pretend that it is fun for us too… because it is for him… but it turn my stomach because it brings back all of these horrendous memories!)  Watching him play in the waiting room until they call him back every 15 minutes or so to give him eye drops to get him ready for the surgery or EUA… trying to stay calm and strong as he SCREAMS and sobs with each and every drop…

Then you walk with him as he rides the bed to the “pre-op” room where you wait (for the umpteenth time) for the Dr, Operating Room Nurse, Anesthesiologist, etc… they ask you the same questions every single time… “Was he born pre-maturely?”

“No.”

“Was he underweight?”

“No.”

“Is he allergic to anything at all?”

“No.”

“What was the last thing he ate or drank?  When?”

blah, blah, blah…

They tell you there is a 1 in 100 chance that something could go terribly wrong with the drugs used to put him to sleep… he could even die…. (they say it so … casually)

Then the last gut wrenching, nail in the thumb, slap in the face moment is when you have to walk out the doors and hand your child to a complete stranger … who is dressed in scary blue scrubs with white face masks pulled over their face… and protective pieces over their heads!  You can barely see thier eyes… They take your child (as lovingly as they can)… and walk away…

as your child screams and cries “Mommiiieeee…. Daadddieeee!  I don’t want to gooooooo!”

………………………………

THAT IS THE HOW I GOT MY SON TO DO PRESSURE CHECKS IN THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE

Most of our “trips” to the hospital were for EUA’s.  To me… going through that ordeal JUST to get a pressure check is CRAZY!  At least to me.  I was told early on (about 2 years ago) that children just can’t sit in the office and get an “adult” pressure check until at least 7 or 8.  “Maybe… if were really lucky… 6”  they told me.  I KNOW my son and I know ME… and I KNOW that I hate the “hospital experience.”  Yes they are all very nice.  They are there to help.  I admire, respect, and even appreciate everyone involved… but I HATE… ABHOR… putting my son through that ordeal.

I decided that as soon as my son had an ability to “reason” on ANY level… I would start working with him on getting a pressure check in the office.  I believe we are very lucky in that he can reason extremely well… but I also believe that most children could take pretty close to the same course as we have.

Step 1 – When Christopher was about 2 1/2 years old, he started asking “why” questions.  “Why did you say that?” “Why does it rain?” “Why do I have glaucoma?” That sort of thing.  We have always been very candid with him and his disease.  We tell him that he has to be very careful with his eyes because he has “congenital glaucoma.”  He can say it… he knows all about it… i.e. it is pressure in the eyes.  He knows that he can’t rub his eyes.  All of this we discussed with him as soon as we could converse with him.  For HIM … that was very early.  He is a very “linguistic” learner (if you know anything about Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences…) and he speaks very well.  My point is that we tell him as much as we can about his situation.

Step 2 – Every time we went to the Dr’s office for a check-up or post office visit… we looked at, discussed, touched, even “played with” the pressure check machine!  I would sit Christopher on my lap… pull the machine over to me and put my chin in it.  I would tell him “This is how the Dr check’s eye pressure.”  After only a couple of times Christopher would want to put his chin in the strap and pretend to do it.

Step 3 – I would talk to Christopher EVERY DAY – for only a few seconds or minutes – about letting Dr Greenidge check his eye’s in the office.  I would tell him that IF WE COULD… we wouldn’t have to go to the hospital to get it checked!  I wouldn’t talk so much about it that it would scare him… I would just casually bring it up in conversation and with a conversational, relaxed tone.  I wouldn’t ask him to commit too much to doing it… but I WOULD say to him “Are you going to let Dr Greenidge look in your eyes next time… or would you rather go the hospital?”

Step 4 – The day before the office visits… We would use BRIBERY to it’s fullest!  I’m not joking.  We would promise the world to him if he would only let Dr Greenidge look in his eyes tomorrow.  We would approach it in a positive, exciting way… “Christopher… after we go see Dr Greenidge and you let him check your pressure in the machine tomorrow… where do you want to go?  The park?  Pump It Up? (An indoor “bouncy” place in our area)”  “If you’re good and he can get a pressure check… you can also eat lunch at ANY restaurant you want!”  Candy… anything he wanted.  Toys… Yes… at least 2 toys per visit!  We spared no expense on the bribery!

Step 5 – The Dr was early on… brought on board with my plan.  I don’t think he really bought in to it at first.  I had to tell him very plainly and convincingly that it could be done.  Here is basically what I said:

“Dr Greenidge, I would like to try and get Christopher to do pressure checks here.  I know they are more accurate and I believe we can get him to do them here instead of going to the hospital for an EUA.”

“Uh… Well…”

“Listen… Christopher has an exceptional “reasoning” ability.  I think if we keep at it… we’ll have him doing pressure checks here in only a few months… Can’t hurt to try to get a reading every time we come could it?”

“Ok… let’s start right now… I’ll try.”

The first 2 or 3 visits… went horribly.  BUT… each time… Christopher went a little farther.  1st time… he grabbed the machine… put his chin in… Dr Greenidge was hopeful but couldn’t get past the eye drop for the pressure check.  That FIRST TIME… Dr Greenidge put the drop in my eyes… and did a quick check on me with Christopher in my lap to watch.  He got to watch his Daddy do it without making a fuss and that helped from the start!  2nd visit… we got the drops in and Dr Greenidge almost got a pressure check… BUT… Christopher squinted his eyes… and wouldn’t let the Dr open them with his fingers.  3rd visit (each time I would work on Christopher before the visit and specifically address the concern the last time i.e. “You’ll have to let Dr Greenidge touch your eyes … just to hold them open for a second so that he can look into them with the blue light.. okay?”  etc.  After a few more visits… He let Dr Greenidge hold his eyes open and get a PERFECT pressure reading in BOTH eyes!  In fact, the Dr said:  “That is the best reading I’ve had on him … since he was born.”  The Dr, Me, and my wife were all amazed!

***Here is a BIG thing that I had to have the Dr’s office work with me on to get it to work:

I realized later on that our office visit routine was working against us.  We would check in… wait… get called to a room where one of the assistant’s would try to do a routine eye exam.  You know where they cover one eye and have him read the pictures.. then the other to read the pictures… then we’d go wait again… then they would call us and take us to another room to … you guessed it… wait for the Dr to come in!  By the time he got there… Christopher was already a wreck… from anxiety!  If you’ve been through this… you know what I mean.  Christopher HATES Dr visits because he KNOWS what is coming.  I had to work for and get Dr Greenidge to explain to all of the staff that when Christopher comes in the office… We check in… wait… and go to see Dr Greenidge – only when he is READY.  That way Christopher isn’t waiting forever and getting anxious!  It was this change that really helped us move quickly towards our goal!

***One last BIG tip and probably the most important one of all (my wife had to beat this one into me… and she was right!):

If you start this… you must ALWAYS consider every visit… from the start… a huge success.  That is… just because you feel like you didn’t make any headway… you didn’t get a pressure reading… it doesn’t mean you or your child failed!  It will take time… Your child has to be given opportunities for small successes to reach the end goal.  You don’t just “get there.”  You have to work at it.  I would want to not give the rewards because he didn’t do what I wanted (get the pressure reading.)  In the beginning he would fall apart (as I’ve mentioned) and cry and we’d abandon the effort for that visit.  Well, we would still buy him his 2 toys, take him to whatever restaurant he wanted, take him to the park, buy him whatever candy he wanted for that day, and anything else we’d promised!  Every time.  Period.  He felt on top of the world and NOW associates a trip to the Dr’s office with fun… not anxiety!

Above all… HE now feels very PROUD to sit in the chair, let Dr Greenidge put a drop in his eyes, let the blue light touch his eye … The last time was the first time he said to me “Daddy, I want to sit in the chair by myself today.”  I cried.  In fact, I’m crying right now thinking about it!  He did too!  Dr Greenidge remarked that he wished he could teach some of his older clients how to get an eye exam!

One last tip – no sugar in the morning!  We’ve learned that sugar before going is a big no-no.  In general, it makes him rowdier and much less willing to co-operate.

Ok… That is it!  Now you have the FULL story!  Here is the quick review:

*Get the Dr and the Office on board.

*Talk openly about your child’s situation.

*Reason with them i.e. we may not have to go to the hospital IF we can start doing this in the office.

*Take baby steps… get them used to the machine, let them watch you put your face in it, let them “pretend/play”, etc.

*Use bribery.

*Reward for the small successes too… consistently and be true to your word.

Hope this helps!

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