19 December 2011

The Burden Lifted

Friday afternoon, I sat with my family in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. I was fidgety, nervous, and I thought of how a doctor’s office is probably one of the most anxious places on earth. We wait there for news that can be life-changing. It’s a wrenching place to sit, to wait, to play out the various worst-case and best-case scenarios, all while thinking about the future despite being trapped in the apprehensive present.

That day, though, we were all waiting for good news. Would Arden be released from the burden of wearing her eye patch? This patient girl, who now breezes through a couple of chapter books a week, who had begun wearing her patch when she could read and write only her own name. This girl, who had worn the patch for four years: fully half her life. This girl, who once had no vision at all in one eye, and who now has good enough vision to pass a driver’s license vision exam.

I thought of how either of my daughters would remind me if I seemed to have forgotten about the day’s patching by chanting: P-A-T-C-H, P-A-T-C-H! It always seemed like they spelled it as if it were an unspeakable word, not quite a curse word, but almost.

I thought of all the hours and hours Arden had endured, and how incredibly grateful and lucky she’s been that A) the patch was effective B) that more drastic options like surgery weren’t required and C) that she was responsible and compliant enough to wear it. As difficult as it was at times, it was the simplest and easiest of all the options out there.

Sometimes in the course of my day at work, I see kids who are confined to wheelchairs, who cannot feed themselves, who cannot communicate beyond their most basic of needs, if that. In my mind, I see these kids as my outlook barometer. They help me to reset my attitude. It’s not me in that wheelchair, so what do I really have to complain about today? It’s not my kid there, so what can I feel grateful for today?

I thought of those kids in the wheelchairs while I waited, reminding myself that even if Arden would have to continue with the eye patch, there was still so much to be grateful for. I thought of how the patch could sometimes flip her attitude from sunny to cloudy, of how she hated to wear it in public and often felt awkward at strangers’ prying questions. But I also thought of how she’s been planning a No More Patch Party to celebrate, including some cool cupcakes in the patch-wearing pirate cupcake liners we found several months ago.

Finally, we were called back to a room, the three of us squeezing into the small seating area while Arden sat, looking tiny, in the too-big examination chair. Her fantastic, encouraging doctor supported her throughout the eye exam, each of us in the family watching and listening anxiously as she read the letters on the screen, knowing she was mistaking some, and hoping that she was doing well enough.

And we waited. The doctor took notes, asked questions, entered information into her laptop, and then she turned to us: yes, she could stop wearing the patch!

In spite of the small caveat that she return in April to be certain she wasn’t backing off on her gains, we cheered quietly with high fives at her burden lifted – definitely more sweet than bitter, with Arden’s proud smile elevating my no-longer anxious heart.

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