How My Son’s Glaucoma Doctor Gave Me Confidence as a Mom

This Mother’s Day, like many others, I think back to the day I became a mom. The first snow of the season was lightly falling outside as the obstetrician was finishing up my unexpected C-section surgery. I was oblivious that a doctor had pulled my husband aside to discuss one of our premature twins as something seemed very wrong with his eyes.

Back then you were allowed to videotape in the delivery room, and on the tape you can hear a soft-spoken doctor with a British accent trying his best to couch it to my husband in the gentlest way possible as my husband’s camera was now filming the floor.

An hour later, they wheeled me up to the NICU so I could catch a quick peek at our first children, two identical boys. No sooner had I been rolled in when a huge team from the ophthalmology department engulfed us. They whisked me to my room, and I was left to pray that our tiny son could see.

He could see but not well due to a rare form of glaucoma coupled with aniridia (little to no irises). They told us we were lucky to be in Boston as the world’s foremost pediatric glaucoma specialist was just across the city. The next day I gazed at my son’s swollen, damaged eyes while placing complete hope and trust in someone we had never met.

Dr. Walton with Laura Richards’s son
Laura’s son with Dr. Walton.

A few days later, I arrived to a dark NICU except for a small pen light used by an older gentleman sitting knee to knee with a nurse and my son on their combined laps. He was examining his eyes. This humble and unassuming world expert had a worn briefcase with a train pass sticking out of it. After the exam, he introduced himself, told us that we were in for a marathon, not a sprint, and eye surgeries too numerous to count, but he would be with us every step of the way.

Our journey had officially begun.

When my son was 3, he got his first pair of glasses. I became emotional and his doctor said, “Parents have sat where you are and cried about their child wearing glasses, but trust me, before long you won’t notice, they will become a part of him.” He was right.

Glaucoma caused my son to have two corneal transplants in the same eye several years apart. The second transplant surgery caused massive bleeding in the back of his eye, causing him excruciating pain. For a week, we desperately tried to save the eye and his glaucoma doctor was right there with us, checking in around the clock and consulting with the corneal surgeon.

Laura Richards with her sons and Dr. Walton
Laura and her sons with Dr. Walton.

I cried on his shoulder in the hospital hallway as a devastating decision was looming. He hugged me and said, “Look, you are a wonderful mother. The young patients I’ve had with one eye do well. It’s hard to think straight now, but he will have a good life.” Our 8-year-old son’s eye was removed, and his life has been challenging but good. He was right.

Our son is now 14 years old and has had over two dozen surgeries for a variety of things but mostly his eyes. He visits this beloved, grandfatherly doctor every three months. My love for this man is something I can’t put into words because words are too mundane. It’s not his extraordinary knowledge or skill as a doctor and surgeon but his unrelenting support and care for us as a family. He has saved every one of our Christmas cards and taped them into my son’s now several inches thick medical chart. Every visit he tells me what a good mother I am and that I’m “Mother of the Year.” He’s buoyed me on tough days and celebrated on good ones. He’s a listening ear, an encouraging word and always available no matter the concern or question.

He preserved our son’s sight and gave me confidence as a mom. I’m forever grateful. Happy Mother’s Day to all moms with kids with special needs and Happy Mother’s Day to our Dr. Walton who helped shape me into the mother I am today.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing you want to make sure the special needs mom in your life knows? *If you are the special needs mom, challenge a loved one to respond to this! If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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