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Your stories – the benefits of a second opinion

Many, many thanks to Laura from Oakland Avenue Blog for writing about her experiences with her son getting glasses, and their choice to get a second opinion.  I’ve always recommended a second opinion if you’re ever unsure or just don’t feel like you’ve gotten your questions answered.  – Ann Z


About a month and a half ago, my husband and I found out our 14 month old son, Eli needed glasses. A pediatrician noticed his left eye was slightly wandering and suggested we see a pediatric ophthalmologist, referring us to a couple doctors the pediatric practice typically works with.

Before making an appointment, I Googled around a bit to find reviews on the various practices recommended, but honestly my search didn’t turn up much, so I decided to just go with whichever one was closer to our home. Neither my husband nor I wear glasses, so we didn’t know what a typical eye appointment was like and we didn’t really know how to prepare. I knew from my research that my son would likely need a patch or glasses, or maybe even surgery, but since I had no idea what the issue was, I didn’t really know what issue to research!

At the appointment, we found out that Eli is farsighted and needed glasses. While the ophthalmologist was a wonderful and kind woman, Eli still cried throughout the entire appointment. Fighting her as she tried to check his vision, squeezing his eyes shut as she shined a light into them, and squirming and wiggling with all his might to get out of his father’s “loving hug” – er – full-body-straight-jacket-embrace, it was very hard for me as Eli’s mom to watch. It may have been because Eli was crying so much, or because I didn’t ask the right questions, but I found we left with very little information. The ophthalmologist wrote Eli’s prescription down on a little card, told us where a children’s eye glasses shop could be found, and wished us luck. The actual vision exam and “discussion” lasted 15 minutes at most.

As we walked out, I felt like I just had the wind knocked out of me with no one there to help me up. My husband and I were in a bit of shock that our son actually needed glasses and we kept thinking about how we knew nothing about glasses or vision, let alone about the world of children’s glasses! The next thing we knew, we were at the optical shop and another whirlwind began. Getting Eli fitted for glasses, choosing the color, shape, brand, transitions or clear lenses, etc., the questions came fast and furious and we were just making decisions off the cuff, trying to make the appointment as short as possible so we could get our son home to nap.

When we got home, all three of us were so emotionally exhausted, we all took naps. As the days went by and the reality settled in that Eli would be wearing glasses, I began to do more research. I eventually found Little Four Eyes, and found it so helpful and informative. The posts about finding an optical shop, explaining the prescription and how to get the glasses to stay on were all questions I was wondering about and I finally had answers. As I read through the questions to ask at a doctor’s visit I realized that I didn’t ask any of the questions suggested! I had no idea what the official name of Eli’s diagnosis was, what to watch for in between appointments, and more.

I knew I could call and ask these questions – again, I did like the ophthalmologist we originally saw – but I also had a nagging feeling that I shouldn’t have had to ask all of those questions, that she should have offered at least some of these answers. In addition, I had a few other moms with children in glasses suggest we get a second opinion after we told them about our experience and Eli’s diagnosis. A lot of people thought Eli should be wearing a patch, and many others mentioned how hard it is to measure a child-that-can’t-speak’s prescription, especially when they were being anything but cooperative – so they questioned the accuracy. The final straw was when my pediatrician saw Eli at his 15 month well-check and told me she was also surprised that he wasn’t wearing a patch for his wandering eye.

​While I did trust the first ophthalmologist when we started, enough doubts were planted that I figured a second opinion couldn’t hurt. At least then I’d know for sure what his diagnosis was (assuming they somewhat matched up) and I could also ask many of the questions I didn’t in the first appointment.

I made an appointment the following week ​at another pediatric ophthalmologist in town, and this time, I came prepared. Lots of food, drinks and toys, in addition a typed up list of questions on my phone that I wanted to ask about.

The second appointment could not have been more different from the first. Eli only had one short cry during the appointment. While he still fought the eye drops and squinted a lot at the lights, overall, he cooperated well with the doctor. Part of it may have just been the fact that my husband and I were much more calm since we knew what to expect, but I truly believe part of it was also the ophthalmologist’s demeanor and all the child-friendly tools he used. This particular ophthalmologist used a lot more toys in the various screening tests – such as a small batman figurine for Eli to track, a video clip with stuffed animals and lots of stickers for a job well done. Towards the end of the appointment, Eli was getting a bit restless, but the doctor still took time to talk with me about Eli’s diagnosis, telling me that he had accommodative esotropia and providing a sheet of paper with the diagnosis on it and where to go for more information.

Thankfully, the prescription for Eli’s glasses were the same as what the original ophthalmologist provided, but this doctor did suggest that we patch Eli’s stronger eye for at least one hour a day. In addition, this doctor took the time to not only answer my questions, but he provided much of the information I was looking for even before I asked, and left lots of time for us to discuss any other questions that remained.

While I would still say both ophthalmologist were great doctors, I’m so grateful we took time to get a second opinion. Partly because I know that I can be more confident in the care we’re providing for Eli,​ and partly because I feel like we got a “do-over” in some ways. Just like learning a new skill or exploring a new place, you’re always a little more comfortable once you’ve done or seen something before and you have a little more confidence in yourself and the situation.

For me and my husband, we had a lot of questions and fears about glasses when Eli was first diagnosed, and to be honest, we’re still learning to navigate this new world. Moving forward, we’ve decided to go with the second doctor, simply because Eli (and we) had a better experience – and we wouldn’t have known how good it could be had we not done it! I think I knew in the back of my mind that the first ophthalmologist’s diagnosis was correct, and that likely, we wouldn’t be “hurting” Eli if we didn’t patch right away. But as his parents, it gave us a lot more peace and confidence that we were doing all we could for our son and as an added benefit, we found an ophthalmologist that works better for our situation.

If you’re on the fence about getting a second opinion, I’d definitely recommend it – if only for your own piece of mind. You may find a doctor that you click with and trust a bit more – and you may find that you’re happy right where you’re at. But either way, I think you’ll leave with more confidence in your child’s care and the doctor you end up choosing – which is always worth it when it comes to our children.

How about you all? Anyone else have an experience in getting a second opinion?

​And if you’re curious, I have a couple other posts on my blog, Oakland Avenue, about the emotions and feelings involved when he was first diagnosed, and a FAQ.

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  1. Lilly
    August 5, 2014 at 6:07 am

    We had a similar experience with our first optometrist…not a lot of information was offered about my LO’s dx or glasses, though she was willing to answer questions when I called. I sought a second opinion, and it was very reassuring.

  2. August 5, 2014 at 7:19 am

    A second opinion is a great idea. When our son’s cataract was diagnosed at 6months, the PO we saw said it was too late to do anything and that we should just come to terms with the fact that he would be blind in one eye. I’m the sort of person who would probably just accept the diagnosis, having all trust in medical professionals, but fortunately my husband is the opposite. We stalked the only other PO in our city (there were only 2 at the time, now there are 3), calling every single day to get an appointment (time is of the essence with cataracts). We saw him after a week and long story short, almost 4 years later he now has 20/20 vision in his aphakic eye (and also perfect in his ‘good’ eye). A long way from being blind! Never be afraid that you’re going to hurt a doctor’s feelings, or indeed that the doctor is always right. You only get one shot to do the best thing for your child and to give them every possible opportunity for their future, so if you don’t feel 100% comfortable with a diagnosis or treatment, it never hurts to get another opinion!

  3. Liz
    August 7, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience. A few weeks ago I found out my 5 year old daughter needs glasses for farsightedness with astigmatism in a “very high” prescription as the optometrist described it. Of course I was devastated with the news that she would have to wear glasses even though I wear glasses myself, it was just something I didn’t want for any of my children. Even with ” experience” in this matter I reacted of out guilt for not taken her sooner and that same day I got the prescription I order her glasses. It’s been almost a week since we got the glasses and it’s been a battle to have her wear them, she cries and says she can’t see, that everything is blurry. I don’t want to force her and there is something inside me telling me it might be a high prescription, so I have decided to take her for a second opinion with a pediatric optometrist and just like you I intend to be prepared with questions and be more relax this time around.

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