I just did a recent article for Midweek about pink eye. Feel free to check it out – I just talk about prevention and treatment of conjunctivitis. But, that’s not the topic of this post. The Midweek writer’s first question to me was “What got you interested in pediatric ophthalmology?”. I’m lucky enough that this question is such a non-brainer. Is there anything better than restoring sight to a child? Complex surgery or a simple pair of glasses – both are so important in the developing vision of children. That question made me think about one of our my first patients here in Hawaii. I worked for a year after my fellowship as an attending at Boston Children’s Hospital. but there I was surrounded by senior physicians. If I needed help on a case, or advice, they were there to assist. When I moved out here with my husband 6 years ago, it was, honestly a bit terrifying. I had lost my safety net and I had to build a practice from the ground up, somehow convincing parents that despite looking young and inexperienced, that I actually was a capable surgeon.
Niko was just a 6 year old boy when he came into see me my first month practicing at Honolulu Eye Clinic.
He had previously been living in California and had recently moved to Hawaii. His mom had noted that he squinted a lot. Niko was a smart little boy, but he had real trouble with the eye chart. When I dilated his eyes, I discovered cataractsin both eyes. A lot of people are often surprised that children and even babies can get cataracts. It’s obviously much more rare than in adults, but it does occur. I met with Niko and his sweet mom, Louise and told them that we should schedule surgery for Niko.
This is what Niko’s mom wrote about her experience:We first found out about a vision problem when Nikolas and I were reunited in Hawaii after a year of separation due to an illness of mine. He spent kindergarten year in San Jose California with my parents and siblings while I received treatment.While in San Jose he complained about not being able to see the board at school towards the end of the school year. When I picked him up and brought him back to Hawaii I decided to take him for a complete physical and suggested to the clinic physician for an eye exam as well. They tested his eyes and we discovered that he couldn’t read most of the letters. The optometrist doing the exam referred us to Dr. Wong. He said that Niko may have cataracts. I was shocked and worried because he had just turned 6 yrs old. Dr. Wong and her staff were so warm and welcoming. Even before we stepped into the clinic, I had already spoken to her on the phone several times. She told me about herself and her experience that gave me such relief to have found someone that can help my sons condition. She performed surgery first on the right eye about 4 wks later and the left eye another 4 wks after that. The surgeries went well and Niko mentioned that everything so much brighter than before on the way to school a few days after. I was moved to tears of joy. He now wears bifocal glasses that he loves and thrives in school. He is always excited to see Dr. Wong and her loving staff for regular check ups. He even mentioned to me several times that when he grows up he wants to become an eye doctor just like Dr. Wong so he can also help others see better.
Niko gave me this card. Six years later, I still keep this card at my house.
After surgery, Niko’s first words to me were “I can finally see the clock in school!” His vision improved to 20/20 in each eye.
Each time he came for his post-operative visit, Niko would show off his latest dance moves for my staff. I mean, seriously, is there anything better than getting that letter from a Mom or this card from a six year old? He got cute bifocal glasses which he proudly wore all the time.
And, now 6 years later, Niko is an aspiring actor and model!
I know pediatric ophthalmology is not one of the “sexy” subspecialties of ophthalmology. Everyone wants to do Cornea or Cataract with all the fun laser cataract machines or Retina with the cool new macular degeneration drugs that are coming out. But, peds/strabismus has its HUGE rewards and I for one, cannot think of anything else I’d rather do.