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A Day in the Life of a Child Having Eye Muscle Surgery for Exotropia Strabismus


I am writing this to help other parents feel more at ease about exotropia strabismus surgery for their child. It took me over six months to come to grips with my child needing surgery. I kept hearing it was an easy surgery done on many children with no problems. Still I had three different specialists look at my daughter and agree that this type of strabismus surgery needed to be done. I only wish I had read this article I am now writing months ago by another parent so I would have known what to expect and not been so fearful over it. It was extremely hard to pretend to be comfortable with the strabismus surgery and smiling all the while scared out of my mind for my child. Did I make the right decision? Will she have long lasting affects over my decision to do the exotropia surgery? The questions lingered while I waited for the surgery to be over. Things went so smoothly so I am here to write this article to calm other parents’ fears over it by sharing our experience. Of course all doctors and hospitals may have different protocols but this was how my daughter’s exotropia surgery went.

We arrived at the hospital at 8:15 am for the same day surgery. My daughter had been feeling apprehensive before leaving home but seemed to have forgotten her fear once at the hospital and around all of the very sweet hospital staff who were doting over her. After signing in, we were to wait for another staff member to come and take her vitals. I was a little apprehensive when they needed to put the pulse ox on her finger as she had a finger stick at the pre-op appointment. I wasn’t sure if she would get upset by it but she didn’t notice much at all! She was weighed and her height measured. Then the staff member took us up to a room after picking up some pajamas for her. Once she had the short sleeved hospital pajamas and booties on, they put the hospital bracelet with her name on her arm. The room was SO hot so I suggest wearing short sleeves or you will be sweating. We unloaded our tote bag of stuffed animals, one brand new one that she had just received recently and one from my childhood that she insisted on bringing. Her surgery was scheduled for 9:15 am, then 9:30 am, and then for 10:30 am. Every person who came in the room checked her arm bracelet to make sure she was the right child having exotropia strabismus surgery. The television was already set to cartoons and I almost had to turn it off as it was hyping up my daughter! She was jumping all around the bed.

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Finally we were escorted up to a surgical waiting area that had some toys and a little house to play in. It was hard to keep my daughter from running down the hall “skiing” on the slick floors. Here we stayed for more than an hour but the child life specialist (who had helped explain things to my daughter at the pre-op appointment) showed up with bubbles. The surgeon came to speak with me three different times, explaining exactly what they would be doing for the exotropia and about after care. I am no physician but his explanation said that the muscles would be moved and also loosened a bit. I was warned that there would be bloody discharge and her eyes would be red and bloody for up to three weeks. He reminded me of the post-op appointment in three days. A staff member brought out some white gauze type material pajamas with footies and a hat to cover my hair. I hurried to put it on thinking surgery would be any minute but it was another thirty minutes or so. A nurse came out to get us and my daughter did fine walking down to the operating room right up until the entryway and then she sat down. She had decided no she didn’t care to go in there. A medication was supposed to be given beforehand that would have calmed her but the surgery was delayed so it never was given to her. I think my wearing this strange outfit had her a bit nervous too about it all. She called for me a number of times when I was standing right there holding her hand.

I laid her down on the table and a mask was placed over her face. I was allowed to stay until she was sleeping and not upset any more. I didn’t want her to be scared with strangers so this really helped calm me down too. She was told to count backwards but she really never counted. My daughter only giggled until she went to sleep. As I was gathering up the stuffed animals that I did not believe would be allowed in the operating room because of germs, I was told to leave at least one so she would see it when she woke up. The surgeon was fabulous walking me out and again calming my fears. He said the exotropia strabismus surgery would not take long (less than thirty minutes) and to stay in the family waiting room so he could talk to me afterward. I went in there, had some coffee and a cookie which were there for families, and by the time I was done eating and drinking, the surgeon was walking toward me. I was shocked that it had been done quickly. My daughter had a MRI last year and I nervously walked the halls for hours waiting on her to come back to the room! The surgeon talked to me in a little room set up just for speaking to family members privately and told me everything went very well. Again he warned me not to be afraid of the bloody discharge or how bloody her eyes looked.

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Then I went to her room to wait on her to wake up in recovery. Within thirty minutes, she was being rolled into the room on a bed. All smiles! All she wanted to know was “what happened to me?” One reason she was asking this is because they had put an IV in and a huge bandage was all the way up her arm to keep it in place. Another reason she was asking is because of the blurriness of her vision. She was asking “is that you mommy?” looking right at me. I had been warned that her vision might take a couple of days to go back to normal but I didn’t expect her to be seeing double like that. So then my daughter started telling the nurse to bring her carrots as “mommy says carrots are good for your eyes”. The child does listen to me! I was amazed that she was not crying or trying to touch her eyes. My big fear was driving home and not being able to stop her from rubbing her eyes. The surgeon says this is a common fear but children are unlikely to do it more than once as it will hurt. My daughter had little to no pain from exotropia strabismus surgery! I kept worrying that the sedation hadn’t worn off yet and she would start hurting on the way home but that didn’t happen. She was happy as a clam except worried about not being able to see well. Her eyes stayed closed in the hospital room as she said it made her dizzy to see double. I found out that the nurses had suggested this to her on the ride back to the room.

She hadn’t had anything to eat since supper the night before and was begging for food. They brought in crackers, popsicles, and juice. My daughter devoured them all and had thirds! The IV came out quickly as she was drinking just fine. No nausea to report. Taking the IV out proved to be the worst part of the day for her as she refused to let anyone do it but her own self. Once the IV was out and she picked out a new stuffed animal from the hospital, we were ready to go. We left the hospital at 3:00 pm and she walked out even with double vision. The doctor had given me a bottle of eye drops as well as a prescription for hydrocodone liquid to help with pain. She fell asleep on the ride home although she didn’t act sleepy in the hospital. She hated the taste of the hydrocodone but I was able to get it in her. The eye drops were the hard part, she was so afraid each time that they would hurt her eyes. Eyedrops were prescribed three times a day and the pain medication for every four hours as needed for pain.

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We came home and this mommy had been up all night worrying about the surgery so we both laid down for a nap. My daughter slept well and then woke up starving again! Her eyes seem to be half fine and half bloody on the outside edges. She never complained about eye pain as much as head pain (near her temples). It was suggested to give her the pain medication anyway so she didn’t start hurting. So I did give it to her at first just in case it was her eyes causing the “head” pain. Overall it was a good day and I was so relieved that she was not in a lot of pain after the surgery for exotropia strabismus. She had little bloody discharge. I had so many people telling me not to be concerned about it that I expected a ton of discharge! The doctor told us not to go swimming and to take it easy on other activities for a while. I didn’t schedule anything as I really expected her to have more pain!

I hope this A Day in the Life of a Child Having Eye Muscle Surgery for Exotropia Strabismus: All About the Same Day Surgery to Correct Exotropia in a Child will relieve parents’ anxiety on their child’s upcoming surgery. There are different types of strabismus surgeries but my daughter had it done for exotropia. Exotropia is where the eyes are turned out. After surgery, your child may seem cross eyed for a bit until they heal but my daughter’s eyes looked fine to me. Some children only have surgery on one eye but her eyes both were turning out so both eyes were operated on.