On Vision and HBOT

For those of you who have been following our blog since the beginning, you might remember my constant worry over Solly’s vision. Sol was born with his eyes somewhat stuck looking towards the left. A part of the initial prognosis given was that he could be blind. (Note to Mom’s new to a pediatric stroke diagnosis: take the first prognosis, however grim it may be, and consider it only a possible outcome. Your child CAN and most likely WILL do much more than doctors believe he or she will after a stroke.) Even after rigorous vision therapy, we still got diagnoses – from several different doctors, many giving conflicting thoughts – of delayed visual maturation, CVI (cortical vision impairment), strabismus, nystagmus, possible visual field cut, possible double vision, and so on. With all these possible diagnoses swirling around us, even though it seemed that Solly was compensating well for whatever vision issues he had, we couldn’t be sure how well he was seeing. It was always a point of major frustration.

With hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), we had read of many children having improved vision after a full course of treatment. In our own experience, we saw many instances where Solly was interacting with his surrounding environment in ways we’ve never seen before, thinking that maybe it helped his vision and helped his brain make new connections as a result. But whenever we think Solly is interacting in new ways, we question IF he is and WHAT, if anything, helped his brain make those connections. We try so many things that we can’t always be sure what move was the right one.

However, after an appointment with Sol’s developmental optometrist earlier this week, we are no longer questioning these new connections: HBOT did, in fact, help Solly’s vision.

Amusing ourselves at an early morning optometry appointment

This past October, at our last appointment with our optometrist, he ran a test on Sol where he set up sensors on his head and had Solly watch a series of images flash on a screen. The sensors provided data into what Solly was seeing and how well his brain was processing the images. We were delighted when the results came back as “within normal limits.”

This week, we saw the same doctor for the first time since October and he ran the same test. After he examined Solly’s eyes, he told me that his vision had improved even more in the past 8 months. He asked if we’d been working hard on our home vision therapy exercises. I said, no, we simply just try to expose Solly to as many new environments as we can, but that we’d also done a full treatment of HBOT and thought that had a great impact on his vision. His optometrist not only agreed that HBOT had helped but he also encouraged us to do another round of treatment as our schedules allowed. We will continue to be followed by Solly’s optometrist every 6 months, but right now, no need to worry about glasses, patching, or surgery at this point. 

We’ll count this news as one big win for HBOT!

Catching Up

Warning: This is a longer post than most! 

Hanging with Dad in Jasper, AB!

Hanging with Dad in Jasper, AB!

Our little family of three spent the last two weeks trekking around three national parks in Canada. It was such a refreshing break from our one million weekly appointments. Solly loves to travel and particularly likes it when there is turbulence on the airplane. He giggles and laughs while I am white-knuckled and trying to remember to breathe! We enjoyed much cooler temperatures, nearly daily hikes, and got to spend time with close friends and Sol’s Nana and Papa, all who joined us on our vacation.

As I mentioned in my last post, the past couples of months have been really, really tough on me, and this is a big reason why I haven’t updated the blog. After Sol turned 6 months old, he really stopped progressing as quickly as he previously was – or as quickly as I perceived him to be progressing. The most worrisome part was he became exceedingly difficult to feed, some days taking in only a bottle or two. As you might expect, with all the eating he wasn’t doing, he stopped gaining weight and plateaued around 14 pounds. This sort of thing is scary for any Mom, especially for one dealing with a stroke survivor.

We’ve teamed up with a number of new doctors to try and solve the issues and get back on track, and it seems like we are. Sol seems to be eating more consistently and, at our last check up, finally put on some weight. As I write this, Mike is feeding Sol solids while Sol giggles away. With some luck, he’ll continue to pack on some weight and be able to chip away at getting stronger and meeting more milestones. We need him to continue to grow so he can get stronger and so his brain can make more connections. Now, at 10 months old, Sol is developmentally around where a 6 or 7 month old might be.

Here’s the breakdown of where we are:


The doctors appointments have been oh-so-plenty. On the plus side, at the end of May, we were able to wave goodbye to hematology after Sol’s third round of blood tests came back normal. No clotting disorders and no indication that he could have another stroke – nothing to worry about. The hematologist mentioned that he is heterozygous for Leiden Factor V, which is a clotting disorder if homozygous, but it had nothing to do with his stroke and won’t affect anything for him moving forward.

We gained some new doctors in the past few months, namely a nutritionist, a GI doctor, and an Ears, Nose, and Throat doctor. We began seeing the nutritionist and GI doctor in June after we noticed the eating issues, and have seen them a total of two times so far. In our initial appointment, they drew blood to check for any food allergies and intolerances, and thankfully, those tests came back negative. Thinking that Sol’s eating issues could be related to an upset stomach or severe reflux, which is common in kids with CP, they switched him to a new, hypoallergenic formula and a new, stronger reflux medicine, Prevacid. We are fortifying his formula to give him some calories with hopes that he’ll start adding some rolls of fat to his tummy. The Ears, Nose, and Throat doctor looked at his frenulum, which was a tad shorter than it should be, giving him slight tongue-tie. Even though he could eat as is, the ENT doctor decided to snip his frenulum so his tongue could move freely, just in case that was causing an issue. In the weeks since we last saw all three doctors, Sol has been eating his bottles very consistently, and is starting to eat more solids – a step in the right direction, for sure!

We’ve also had a check up with our ophthalmologist, who noted that Sol has strabismus (lazy eye) in both eyes, making his eyes turn outward slightly. When we saw the neuro ophthalmologist much earlier this year, he predicted that this would happen as Sol’s vision continued to mature. There’s a chance that the double strabismus could self-correct, so we aren’t going to worry about it now and will check in with him in a few months.

There are no other major doctors appointments scheduled until September (woo!), so our focus in the next month is lots and lots of therapy.


Workin' those arms

Workin’ those arms

With those one million doctors appointments came a million therapy appointments – and new therapists! We are now seeing PT three times a week, OT once a week, Speech Therapy (ST) twice a month, Vision Therapy twice a month, and Developmental Therapy once a month. In other words, we’ve got a full calendar!

In PT and OT, we are focusing on getting Sol to bear weight in his arms, particularly his right arm, as well as sitting, transitions, and engaging his right hand. Solly is definitely getting stronger! He sat independently for the first time around Father’s Day, but struggles to sit up straight, especially since his arms and trunk are weak. On his tummy, he is kick, kick, kicking his legs so hard, bringing his legs up and underneath him, and alternating leg kicks. I just know that once we strengthen his arms and trunk, he’ll be zooming around and I’ll have trouble keeping up! He’s also starting to squirm and pull his body forward when he’s on his belly. His right side has really woken up over the past couple of weeks. He’s now able to move his shoulder and balance on both elbows, something that was not possible just weeks ago. Our next goals include sitting even more independently and moving in any way with four-point crawling being the end goal.

Sol’s vision continues to improve weekly. He is now looking at objects and reaching for them with his left hand, and he can turn his head and look at you briefly when you speak to him. We’re working towards having him hold his gaze for longer periods of time.

Speech Therapy and Developmental Therapy both are the result of Sol’s eating issues. While Developmental Therapy technically covers all therapies, we are focusing on eating and developing oral muscles in both ST and DT as Sol’s facial and oral muscles are weaker on the right side. He is doing so much better with his eating, now consistently eating 3 – 4 full bottles a day as well as one packet of solid food.

What’s Next

Today, I am meeting with one of the directors of Georgetown’s Center for Neuroplasticity. We’ve spoken with her a couple of times about getting involved and driving awareness of pediatric stroke. Today’s meeting is all about Sol: I’ve shared his MRI images with her and she will walk me through them today so I understand where Sol’s brain damage is and what type of event caused it (something that was never clearly explained while we were in the NICU).

Other than that, we are working the therapy to help Sol get caught up on his milestones – and, of course, having lots of hugs, giggles, and kisses along the way!

6 months!

Hey Dad, I'm 6 months old!

Hey Dad, I’m 6 months old!

I had trouble getting started with and completing this post. Today is Sol’s 6 month birthday. Part of me is so excited that he’s been with us now for half a year and continues to improve and recover really well from his stroke. The other part of me hates the monthly milestones because they force me to realize how far behind Sol is from a “typically” developing child. In reality, he’s only a month or so behind, but it’s very hard for me to be ok with the delays, particularly since we don’t know how he will end up recovering. (I’m sorry for the brutal honesty and not-as-positive tone here – it’s just part of this roller coaster ride we call recovery.)

Here’s a quick update on where we are:


Just a cool dude in a fish hat

Just a cool dude in a fish hat

As you may recall, in addition to our pediatrician, we see a hematologist, a neurologist, an ophthalmologist, and a neonatalogist as a follow up from our NICU stay. We’ve found out from our most recent visit to the hematologist that Sol is not at risk for blot clotting, so another stroke is very unlikely. Whew. Our neurologist has decided that, since Sol has not had any seizures since he was in the NICU, that he can gradually outgrow his anti-seizure medication (Keppra) dose over the next 6 months, with the ultimate goal of being removed from the drug altogether when he’s a year old. She was concerned over his slow head growth and noted that while it’s likely due to extensive brain damage as a result of the stroke, we may want to do xrays of his head just to make sure his sutures have not prematurely closed and are hindering brain growth. I plan on chatting with our pediatrician next week to make sure this is necessary before moving forward. My goal is to help Sol progress as much and as quickly as possible, but I definitely don’t want to put him through any additional testing or procedures unless it absolutely has to happen.

This month we also saw a neuro-ophthalmologist who gave us a great diagnosis on Sol’s vision. Solly keeps looking around more and more each day, and is really improving his hand-eye coordination on the left side.


Our therapy plan is as follows: PT twice a week, OT twice a month, and Vision Therapy twice a month. In PT and OT, we are continuing to focus on getting Sol to use and strengthen his core muscles and right arm so he can learn to sit up and get ready to crawl. He can now hold a

Rattles are delicious

Rattles are delicious

supported seated position quite well, and loves it when we prop him up on an exercise ball and bounce him. In fact, he loves moving so much that one of his therapists says his theme song is “I like to move it, move it.” Sol’s arm and leg muscles are becoming more tight as a result of the stroke, so we stretch him out every day. We are also working on encouraging Sol to keep his right hand open and use it to hold toys and grab his toes. While he isn’t grabbing his feet independently, if we stretch him so his feet dangle in front of his face, he’ll grab them and put them in his mouth. This is huge progress because it means Sol’s tight muscles are getting more limber!

Vision Therapy is slightly less intensive since it’s difficult to instruct Sol how to use his eyes and vision. Instead, our therapist observes him every two weeks and notes how much he’s improving every time, especially focusing on how attentive he is to surrounding toys and faces. We’re starting to see a remarkable improvement in his ability to keep his eyes in midline, and hope this continues to improve over the next few months.

The next major milestones we have in sight are sitting independently, pushing up from his tummy to his hands and knees, and rolling from his back to his tummy.