I am aware of the shock factor of this photo. This is my daughter, Poppy, when she first came to us from her birth country of China. She came to us quickly because of her eye. From start to finish, her adoption took five months. That is breakneck speed for an adoption. Poppy was born with a Descemetocele of her left eye. This is a benign tumor that was present at birth. It is likely the reason she was abandoned. In the first days of life, these tumors can sometimes be removed, and the eye saved. Poppy lived to the age of 22 months with this tumor. It grew in a cyclic pattern, growing and growing until it would burst, pressure would release, and the cycle would begin again. At the most painful part of this cycle, the tumor would grow to a few cell layers thick. Blinking was enough to rupture the tumor. This happened an untold number of times in Poppy’s 22 months of life before coming to us. Her eye would become infected, over and over, almost every time it ruptured.
Poppy held on long enough to get to us, where she received a state of the art surgery to remove her eye and replace it with an implant and donor tissue. Poppy was in so much pain at the time of the surgery, that the actual process of removing her eye was a relief to her. 24 hours after the surgery, she was up, running around in her usual Poppy way.
Over the donor tissue that was inserted into her eye socket, Poppy wears a “shield” that looks like a thick contact lens in shape, but the coloring is that of an eye. It has a pupil and iris painted onto a sclera. It is made to match her other eye. The process of creating this shield has been 9 months in the making. Her tumor, which should have been dealt with at days old, stretched her eye socket in ways the Ocularist (eye prosthesis expert) has never had to deal with. Creating the perfect shield for Poppy has been a challenge. We’ve had 12 different shields so far. The latest one isn’t a good fit. She hates it. She often takes it out and prefers to wear nothing.
Poppy isn’t old enough to understand how others view an empty eye socket, but I am keenly aware. So are her siblings. People stare. All the time. We often laugh at the inopportune moments that Poppy chooses to remove her eye shield. She is two-years-old, and she is ALL TWO. She is rough, loud, dirty and raucous, just the way two-year-olds should be. She couldn’t care less what people think. I kind of adore that about her. She lives large and loves fiercely.
She is our girl, whether she has her “eye in” or her “eye out.”
But, because of the stares, I usually make sure she is “eye in” when we are out. Yesterday, we went to watch her brothers play soccer. She had her shield out when I put her into the car asleep. I transferred her to a stroller figuring that when she woke, I could slip the shield in quickly and no one would notice.
Someone noticed. As I slipped her shield in, the lady behind us turned to look and let out a loud, “OH MY GOD!” and then, because she had been so loud, many others turned. Instead of apologizing for her outburst, she decided to defend it by saying “Good lord, that caught me off guard. I wasn’t ready for that. Phew. Well, look at that! Now that it’s in, you can’t even tell she doesn’t have an eye! Thank goodness. That was so awkward.”
I’m so sorry I caught you off guard. I’m so glad you won’t have to be faced with my daughter’s difference again. I live to make sure that you don’t have to feel awkward. Sigh.
Poppy didn’t understand any of what was said. She was more interested in getting down and playing in the grass. My older kids, who would have noticed, were already on the field, engrossed in the soccer game, and for my littlest kids, they could care less. They adore our Poppy and are never shocked by her appearance, even when she had her eye tumor.
We head back to the Ocularist on Friday to work on a better fitting shield to cover Poppy’s prosthesis, but today, she went without a shield at all, because, I don’t care how awkward people feel. I care about her, and her comfort. This shield is uncomfortable. I won’t inflict it upon her anymore just for soccer moms who are caught off guard.
–FullPlateMom, who knows it isn’t about anyone else. It’s about my sweet, brave girl.