Thursday, December 29, 2011

My son can see!

Tuesday, December 27th, finally came. It was a day that I had dreaded for over a month ever since our optometrist had made the appointment for Yuli with the Vanderbilt Eye Institute back in November.  I knew this day could hold news that I was not ready to hear in regard to Yuli’s vision.  When we began the adoption process, our paperwork from Bulgaria stated that Yuli had slight strabismus, which is a disorder in which the two eyes do not line up in the same direction, and therefore do not look at the same object at the same time.

When we received more extensive medical information on Yuli prior to our first trip to Bulgaria in December of 2010, the paperwork stated that he had “dim vision,” which naturally concerned us. I consulted with a specialist at that time who looked over the information on Yuli’s eyes and informed us that he could have damage to his optic nerve, which could not be repaired, however, the specialist could not be sure until Yuli was examined by him in the states. The paperwork also stated that Yuli needed surgery to repair his eyes and would require glasses post surgery.

Friends kept assuring us that many children born in the United States and elsewhere had strabismus, which could easily be repaired in many instances by surgery, so there was hope for our son. We were also reminded by our agency and other adoptive parents that the medical information sent from Bulgaria was not always reliable. Rob and I decided long ago that none of this mattered as we had already committed to being Yuli’s parents and would do whatever it took to help our son.

When Rob and I met Yuli on December 6, 2010, during our first trip to Bulgaria Yuli had a patch over one of his eyes as the orphanage doctor had decided to use patching to strengthen his eyes in preparation for surgery.  Rob and I also noticed during that visit that Yuli sometimes held his head in an awkward head position when trying to look in the direction of someone’s voice or other noise. We were not sure if the awkward movements of his head had to do with the patching or something else.

When we returned to Bulgaria in June of this year to bring Yuli home, his eyes looked much better and the orphanage had ceased patching.  The medical paperwork that was sent home with Yuli stated again that we would need to have surgery on his eyes and that Yuli would need glasses.

Once we got home with Yuli and began to become more comfortable as a family, Rob and I had to prioritize Yuli’s healthcare needs. Thankfully, our pediatrician was a great help in that area, and he emphasized to us that repairing Yuli’s palate was our first priority. As you know from my previous post, Yuli had that surgery in September and has now begun speech and feeding therapy after getting the green light from the surgeon.

Next on the priority list was Yuli’s eyesight. Rob and I made an appointment with our family eye doctor who, after examining Yuli (or trying to ----Yuli was not very cooperative) , determined that Yuli had no lateral vision in his right eye. Our doctor then called the Vanderbilt Eye Institute and set up an appointment for Yuli with one of their pediatric eye specialists.

Over the last six months since Yuli came home, Rob and I noticed that his right eye would wander, especially if he was tired. I also noticed that he seemed to bump into things more often than normal so I wondered if he simply could not see items that were in his peripheral. However, I also noticed that he would pick up the tiniest speck of something off the floor to show me. Sometimes these things were no bigger than the top of a push pin. Needless to say, we were getting mixed messages on the quality of Yuli’s vision.

During Yuli’s appointment at Vanderbilt, Dr. Donahue ran a large battery of tests on Yuli’s eyes, and within minutes, he had answers for me and Rob. Our son has a congenital disorder that is called Duane Syndrome in which the sixth cranial nerve that controls the lateral muscle does not develop properly.  Yuli displayed all the classic signs from the strabismus, to the awkward head position and the narrowing of one of his eyes. People with Duane Syndrome often maintain a head posture or head turn to keep the eyes straight. The affected eye, as in Yuli’s case, may appear smaller than the other eye. The affected eye is also unable to turn outward to see items in the peripheral because the nerve which would tell the eye to turn outward is missing. It all fit. But, what about Yuli’s vision? Well, according to Dr. Donahue, my son can see very well out of both eyes. He has a little far-sightedness, which is common with Duane’s Syndrome, but he can see! Rob and I were elated!

Dr. Donahue also informed Rob and I that the surgery, had it been performed in Bulgaria, would likely have made Yuli’s disorder worse. To say that I am glad the surgery was not performed in country would be an understatement. Dr. Donahue wants to monitor Yuli over the next few months mainly to keep a check on Yuli’s head position and his ability to keep his eyes straight. The doctor stated that Yuli

Words cannot express how happy I am to know that my son can see his mommy and daddy’s face with clarity and see all of his surroundings in his new home. I have said it before, but it bears repeating…God is good!


  1. great news, so will he need surgery and glasses?

  2. He will need glasses for the far-sightedness, but doc says not to go crazy trying to get him to wear them. He will only need surgery if his head positioning worsens.

  3. Glad to hear the good news Angela! Faith also has strabismus in one eye but it is minor. Our homeopathic doctor has dealt with a lot of that and said that most of the time it works it's way out as they start using their eyes more. I think nearly every child from Pleven has strabismis... seems to be a nutritional issue or that they don't get the opportunity to use their eyes much in their living condition. My brother had one eye weaker than the other when he was growing up and some eye exercises, mazes and word finds seem to fix the problem.


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