My daughter Mackenzie was diagnosed with severe amblyopia when she was 3 years old. We had no idea that she was not seeing well with her left eye. We began eye patching her every day, all day long. Not surprisingly, patching compliance was the source of many battles. She would fight and cry, but after six months her vision was greatly improved. Wearing an eye patch was working, but the trick was to make it easier for Mackenzie. I created a cloth patch that fits over Mackenzie's eye glasses, and we decorated the eye patches to look like animal characters. Mackenzie loved her new eye patches. In the mornings, the discussions revolved around which patch to wear instead of "Why do I have to wear a patch?" This gave Mackenzie some control in the situation. Her friends at school loved them so much that they wanted one too. This made Mackenzie feel special instead of embarrassed. We showed her ophthalmologist and he wanted me to sell them at his eye center. I now sell the patches all over the world to doctors and parents wanting to make the patching process easier and more comfortable.
Mackenzie ended up patching for 5 years. She started at 3 1/2 years old patching all day every day. We tried Atropine drops but we were worried that we may be damaging her good eye, since her eye stayed dilated for 10 days after we stopped giving the drops to her. At age 6, she started maintenance patching because we were able to improve her 20/400 vision to 20/30. She slowly decreased the amount of patching she did everyday until age 8 when she patched for only 1 hour per day. It was a long journey for Mackenzie and her whole family but she has good vision in her eye and no longer needs an eye patch.
Mackenzie is active in sports, dance team and musical groups. She has long forgotten all the struggles we had over patching. On the day she received her contacts she turned to me with a big smile and thanked me for making her patch. She felt so beautiful and grown up. To tell you the truth, it was hard for me to let go of the cute little girl with glasses and a patch.
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Why We Created Patch Pals
In 1997, Patch Pals was launched by Cathy Thompson. Her daughter Mackenzie had struggled with patching her eye and Cathy created a few eye patches to make her daughter's patching more enjoyable. With encouragement from local eye doctors, she started selling her patches. Cathy applied her B.A. in Psychology and her experience as an elementary school teacher to create products and a website that would appeal to young children. She knew that if eye patching was presented as something fun and exciting then children would tolerate patching time a little easier. Providing free downloadable coloring sheets, interactive games, educational worksheets, reward calendars, and many other items gives patchers activities to do while patching. Becoming a Patch Pals Club member helps the patcher feel like they are special and unique. Cathy wanted to attach as many positive feelings and experiences to patching with the hope of helping with eye patch compliance.