Sunday, September 21, 2008

Can he see clearly now?

Good question. Kiddo has strabismus, meaning one of his eyes doesn't quite focus properly and has a tendency to wander off in a different direction from the other. Left unchecked, strabismus can result in ambylopia: vision loss. Yeek.

This was, naturally, one of those things I didn't know was common in our families until we started telling people our kid had it -- "Oh, I had that when I was a child, we did vision therapy and I was fine" or "Well, so-and-so had that too, how about that?" My sister, in fact, *still* has it but was just diagnosed; now she knows why she was getting headaches and had trouble reading all these years. Moral of the story: If large numbers of people in your family are four-eyes, get your kid to an eye doctor right now right away move it. 

Fortunately kiddo has the intermittent kind, meaning it only happens occasionally, when he's tired or trying to focus on things far away. Opthalmologist seems to think surgery is inevitable; some of the reading I've done indicates that should be a last resort, as it doesn't always work. 

At the moment we're patching the good eye, trying to build up strength in the weaker eye. That's been a learning process. First we learned that latex eye patches can cause an allergic reaction. (Coverlet brand, in this case.) Then we learned that there is a whole cottage industry devoted to making patches -- some for adults, but mainly for kids -- that are latex-free and come complete with cute/goofy/trendy patterns so the kids don't feel stupid wearing them. Some attach directly to the skin with adhesive or a strap; others attach to the child's glasses frame. This site offers a good rundown of companies. What's fascinating is how many people got into the biz by making patches for their own children, got compliments and decided to sell them to others. Can't decide if that speaks more to the triumph of the entrepreneurial spirit, or to the gaping void of options open to parents of afflicted kids before these entrepreneurs came along.

At the moment we're using these patches. And by "using," I mean going through three to five of them a day since kiddo has figured out how to rip them off. He only has to wear them two hours a day, but you try explaining that to a 17-month-old. 

"Now honey, you have to leave that on for another hour and a half --"


"Now sweetie, you need to leave the patch on this time --"


"Kid, do that again and the teddy bear gets it."

So not too sure what to do next. I could get one of those reusable fabric patches with a strap, but it takes him all of five seconds to remove his sunglasses -- which have a similar strap -- so I don't think it would make a difference. One blogger I found recommended these arm immobilizers, which should keep the child from bending the elbows enough to reach the patch. Of course I imagine that would also prevent kiddo from feeding himself, which would cause all sorts of calamity and angst in the mornings, when I normally patch him. (Could switch to evenings, but same problem with dinner.) His eye does appear to be doing less wandering about, so maybe this is working anyway.

I mean, I knew he'd have eye problems. I just figured he'd be out of diapers first.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Or I could just give him a stick to play with …

Another day, another toy of ours on a recall list. First up: a rattle from Habermaass that is A. wooden and B. made in Germany, so apparently geographically profiling your toys doesn’t work either. Second: a rattle from Manhattan Toy that was made in China, so, uh, maybe it does. Ironically the problem is the same in both – parts can break off, causing a choking hazard.

This comes after the recall on the lead-encased bib we brought back to the store and the recall on the Bumbo chair, because some kids discovered a chair without a safety belt is not incredibly difficult to wriggle out of. (To be fair, you're not supposed to use the chair on a raised surface. But the packaging used to be less than clear on that fact.)

So I’m supposed to, what, obsessively scan recall lists and burn my eyes out poring over every single parenting magazine on the market to make sure my kid’s toys won’t kill him? Because this information doesn’t get regular widespread exposure unless there were deaths involved. Frankly I’d rather find out about a potentially fatal object before it becomes fatal, not after.

Tempting to blame the media but I don’t think that’s the full story here. I think these recalls are considered more or less routine. Rattle is a choking hazard, stroller might collapse on you, teddy bear has a ticking bomb inside, oopsie! Call the company for a refund. Because when you discover you’ve been sold a shoddy product, don’t you want to ask the maker of that product for a different product? I’m sure there’s no way it will also be shoddy!

I think people have come to expect this sort of thing. For the life of me I can’t understand why. These aren’t display items. They aren’t collectibles. They aren’t sitting in a curio cabinet somewhere. We’re taking them out of the package and giving them to our kids. Under the apparently mistaken impression that someone, somewhere, did something resembling quality control before dropping the things on store shelves. Recalls happening at all is obnoxious; that they happen all the time is disgraceful.

My kid, of course, is fond of both of those rattles. Fortunately he hasn’t noticed their mysterious disappearance.