Two Eyes to See

We all know, or should know, that laser pens are dangerous. But sometimes, adults can forget that children don’t know.

In November Eleanor and I went to the “fake” market in Shanghai just in the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum metro station. “Uggs” and “Converse” obtained, we went to a technology shop to buy some Christmas presents. Here Eleanor found a laser pen and proceeded to shine it on the floor.  I more or less freaked out, and told her never to shine it near anyone, particularly in people’s faces specially not near their eyes as it could cause damage to eyesight. Sadly, the woman in the shop decided to give it to me as a “free gift”. We got it home, showed Martin then put it safely away, away from prying fingers/eyes.

A couple of weeks later, Eleanor went on a sleepover and with her friend went to another friend’s house. Eleanor came home, went to bed, then Eleanor called me back into her room and told me her eyes were blurry. It transpired that the girl (not the organised playdate girl) had shone a laser at Eleanor. At 8.30pm there was not much I could do.

Next day I sent her to school, only to get a phone call from school stating that Eleanor was complaining about her vision and that after a basic eye test, her vision was not what it should be.


This is the tumbling e chart. I had never seen it, but it makes sense. You just say the direction it is pointing. Right, Left, Up and Down.






We went to the clinic, who suggested we go to the local Children’s hospital or Suzhou Eye Hospital, because yes, Eleanor was having trouble seeing clearly, but there was no damage to the exterior of the eye, but the tests the doctor could do at the clinic were limited. The Eye Hospital was downtown and would not speak English. (In hindsight should have phoned the insurance company immediately – but mind was not thinking straight).

The day before, I had gone to the local Children’s Hospital to visit a colleague’s son who had been admitted because of pneumonia. I had not been impressed, with men smoking in the toilets of the ward, it was the last place I wanted to go. So we opted for Kowloon hospital just a 5 minute walk from our apartment. First of all though, we went to the bakery for a baguette and some doughnuts.  We got a taxi and eventually managed to find the private section of the hospital for VIP’s (medical insurance card holders for foreigners effectively). We arrived at 11.55 to be told that all the doctors had gone for lunch and they would be back at 1pm. Eyes rolled, but deep breath – we had bread to eat. We also had to get past the medical insurance company to confirm that this was eye damage due to an incident, not just natural deterioration in eye sight as that is not covered by our medical insurance.

1pm arrived and we were taken into the body of the hospital, effectively pushing into queues. However, nothing is private and in all the rooms we went into to see optometrists carrying out different tests, we had an audience. img_9532

The following week, the eye tests revealed that her vision was getting better but they still wanted to do the injection. Which again I was not happy with. To even have a needle in that area go in, Eleanor would have to be held down with force or be given general anaesthetic.  We had also e-mailed all the notes (for in China you get your notes home with you) to the insurance company who had come back to us saying they didn’t think an injection was necessary but to go to Suzhou Eye Hospital and that they would organise an interpreter.

So off we go (with Martin this time) to Suzhou Eye Hospital, the hospital was empty and we were seen immediately once the staff had found Nurse Chen our interpreter. Despite being in the hospital, they couldn’t understand that we wanted someone called Chen.  We ended up phoning the insurance company to phone the nurse to come and find us!

Martin and Eleanor went off to do the tests surrounded by medical students, and I went to register Eleanor and provide insurance details. img_9672

Photos and scans of Eleanor’s eyes were taken and it was confirmed that no injection was needed, but they wanted to do a scan which would involve dye injected in… Eleanor again freaked out.  We calmed her down, and the Doctor confirmed after another set of eye photographs that it wouldn’t be necessary. Phew…

A field of vision test was then done. By this stage we knew that on the left eye she has three permanent black spots, but the field of vision test turned up that her right eye wasn’t seeing what it should and so the scan was back on the table.  This time though they took us aside to tell us that while keeping Eleanor occupied.

We were told to go back in January and persuade Eleanor that she should have the scan. Eleanor actually has come round and has confirmed she would have the injection however, she won’t be having it.

In Northern Ireland we went to see my optician. He took the same photos, he compared them with those from the eye hospital and he took another Field of Vision test, which came back as fine not like the one in Suzhou. We have come to the conclusion that a further scan will tell us nothing more. We have no issue with how we were treated and how the treatment was done in Suzhou, but no matter how good an interpreter is, it is nice to have an important conversation in your mother tongue. (I think Martin just about understood the Northern Irish).

Eleanor will probably not be a pilot, but her vision, whilst not perfect in the left eye, is fine in that she doesn’t need glasses. As our optician said “it is good that God gave us two eyes”.

We haven’t made a big deal about it since Eleanor sees the girl in school. The parents know and school know, and this week the school issued a “press release” just generally warning and reminding parents of the dangers of laser pens.