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Mom blogs and takes one for the team to promote kids' vision screening

Posted Jan 25 2012 4:32pm

I hate seeing myself on video. I hate hearing myself even more.

Never once in college, when I decided to major in journalism, did I consider specializing in television or radio. I am a print girl through and through. In the 11 years I have been a media specialist at UAB I have put forth great effort to never be seen in any of our publicity efforts. I was even the lead protestor when the boss wanted to put our pictures on the UAB News web site and was the last to schedule my headshot.

In short, I HATE being on camera, still or video.

My desire to hide behind the camera vanished, at least in part, when I realized I could help someone else's child by sharing my son's story about the importance of vision screening for young children.

Sam is as healthy as they come. Nearly 10 pounds when he was born, Sam came into the world healthy, happy, sleeping and eating like a champ. He has always been ahead of where he should be developmentally and is pretty athletic. He could nail free throws on his kiddie basketball goal as a toddler, repeatedly nailed the soccer goal from nearly midfield this past fall and can hit a wiffle ball his dad pitches to him over our backyard fence.

So when I found out that his right eye has likely not worked properly since he was born, I was stunned. How could he excel like this and not be able to see the big "E" on an eye chart?

Come to find out, it's not that uncommon in kids his age. Amblyopia, better known as lazy eye, affects up to 5 percent of the population. In Sam's case, his left eye has been compensating for the lack of vision in his right eye for the last four years and had it not been caught early, his eyesight could have been permanently damaged.

A lot of thoughts swirled in my mind -- what if we hadn't caught this now? How would have it impacted his education? Would he ever have been able to get a driver's license? He loves sports - would have it been too dangerous to play as he got older?

Luckily for Sam, Dr. Cogen says his prognosis is excellent. But I couldn't keep thinking about how many kids are out there who don't get an eye exam when they are toddlers and instead of an 80 to 90 percent chance of recovering their vision in the bad eye, there is an 80 percent chance they won't.

Leaving Dr. Cogen's office after Sam's diagnosis, I couldn't help but keep thinking about it. All of those 'what if's?' kepts swilring around in my mind. So much so that by the time I got back to my office after taking Sam to school the first stop I made was to our video production staff to pitch Sam's story.

I couldn't quite believe the words as I heard them come out of my mouth -- 'I'll do a video interview' and 'you can get b-roll of Sam's next appointment with Dr. Cogen and of him playing in our backyard.' I caught myself more than once wondering why I couldn't just shut up and go back to my office. It was like someone else had taken over my ability to speak and I couldn't stop it.

Then I realized what it was. It was the mommy part of my brain, not the camera hating wordsmith. It's not often that I let the mommy brain take over during the workday. My mommy brain knows what I have at my disposal to tell a story and why telling this story is so important. If just one kid's sight is saved because I got over myself and my camera-hating issues for a couple of minutes of video, then I have done what I expect of myself as a human being.

So how is Sam doing now? Excellent, according to Dr. Cogen. We had a checkup this morning and his glasses are doing their job. If he continues to do this well, Dr. Cogen says he could have 20/20 vision and be out of his glasses by third or fourth grade. If that's not proof that early eye exams are important, I don't know what is.
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