Shortly after my daughter was born, she was diagnosed with Amblyopia, or a lazy eye. To most people, it’s not noticeable. At least not until I point it out. When she looks at you, it takes a little longer for her bad eye to focus. Most people wouldn’t know she is almost legally blind in that eye. She never lets it stop her. She has finished two Spartan Kids Races at four and half years old. Fast forward to when she was three, the specialist eye doctor told her that she needed to wear a patch over her good eye. This would force her to use the muscles in her bad eye, strengthening it. With enough persistence, her bad eye may become strong enough that she won’t even need glasses. The problem was, she hated wearing her patch. Her bad eye was so bad, she couldn’t see anything. It was pitiful watching her bump into things as she walked around the house. Fast forward again. Two weeks ago, the eye doctor said that surgery wasn’t an option anymore. She HAD to wear a patch. Not only did she have to wear the patch, she has to wear it for at least six hours a day for the next year. If she doesn’t, she may eventually go blind in that eye. The deterioration of the one eye could lead to the deterioration of the other, causing her to go legally blind. The doctor had a sit-down with her and explained the importance of wearing her patch. This was reiterated by her mom, and again by me when I got home from work. I explained to her that if she didn’t wear her patch, she might not be able to see things anymore. If she can’t see things, she might not be able to do some things that she was excited about doing when she got older, like driving a car. I was very careful not to tell her things she can’t do. I don’t ever want my child to think that she can’t do things just because she has a disability so I was very careful. However, some things, like driving, are just a reality. I sat down with her and explained that wearing a patch is a lot like working out. She understood this because she loves Spartan Races and she loves to go down in the basement and work out with me. I explained that whenever she wears her patch, it makes her bad eye work out. The more her eye works out, the stronger it gets, just like when you exercise. I guess something in her head clicked, and she understood. She wears her patch on a daily basis. Yesterday, we were out of patches, so we had to stop at the store and get some more. They didn’t have any patches with the fun kid designs, they only had the plain jane flesh-colored ones. She was upset that she didn’t have a pretty patch. So I told her I would make her an awesome patch, a spartan patch! A couple of minutes later, this is what I came up with:
She loved it. She calls her bad eye her “spartan eye” because it keeps getting stronger and spartans are strong. So naturally, I thought this was adorable, so I posted this same picture on the Spartan Parents Facebook page. One mother saw Jocelyn’s picture and commented that she had a 6 year old daughter who had optic nerve hypoplasia and she struggled with her patch too. She said that she hopes I didn’t mind if she showed the picture of Jocelyn to her daughter because her daughter felt “different” and seeing her would mean a lot to her. So of course I said, ABSOLUTELY, DO IT! I immediately told Jocelyn this story. I told her: There was a mommy of a little girl named Addison that saw your picture. Addison has to wear a patch too because she has a bad eye. Her mommy wants to show her your picture so she can see that wearing a patch can be cool and that she doesn’t have to be scared or afraid to wear one. Because you are being so good and wearing YOUR patch, you are helping her wear HER patch so her bad eye can get stronger too!!!
Jocelyn thought that was the coolest thing. Then Jocelyn showed her spartan heart. She asked me, “Can I make a video for Addison so I can tell her to wear her patch so her eye can get stronger like mine?” My heart melted. I asked her what she wanted to tell her. I only wanted her to tell me so that she could practice what she was going to say in the video. I pressed record and I heard, “ummmmm….” with a really long pause. I said, “it’s ok, don’t be nervous, just talk to Addison and tell her what you were telling me. I’ll start over and we can try again.” So I pressed record again. This was the result.
I couldn’t have been more proud as a dad. I couldn’t wait to send this video. Just when you think this story is over and couldn’t be more mushy. There’s more. As I opened up my phone to send the video, I got a message back from Addison’s mom. This is what it said:
I couldn’t get the video to download when I just got Addison off the bus, and she just went to a birthday party. But I told her about Jocelyn and that the video would be waiting for her, and you should have seen her face light up. I showed her the picture you posted and she said “that girl sees differently too! She’s sooo pretty! And a spartan!” LOL. She said she wants to make a return video too, so when she’s home in a few hours we will 🙂 “
I teared up. Here I am, reading this little message with tears streaming down my face. Not because of anything I did, but because of how proud I was of Jocelyn. Yes, my daughter has a bad eye, but she has the most awesome heart in the world. Nobody wants to feel alone. Today, she made Addison’s day, all by herself, just by being her. She showed her that she is not alone and it’s ok.
This morning Addison sent a return video to Jocelyn. She was so happy to see Addison. She keeps watching it over and over.
I don’t know what anyone who reads this is dealing with. Maybe someone reading this is dealing with a disability, or a difficult situation, or struggling emotionally somehow. Jocelyn and Addison showed me today that your situation doesn’t have to define you. You can define your situation. As adults, it’s easy to feel down on ourselves because things aren’t going the way we’d like. You never know who you might help along the way when you help yourself. Your difficulty could become your biggest testimony.
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