When your child gets hit in the eye with a baseball bat, there’s no such thing as a bridge too far.
You know you might hit traffic crossing the San Francisco Bay or spend extra time in the car with a hurt child, but going to a hospital where an on-site eye specialist can provide care at any hour of the night is the best option.
That’s exactly what Henry and Donna Siu of Dublin did when their 8-year-old son, Liam, got a little too close to his big sister practicing her swing before her May 5 game.
After rushing to nearby ValleyCare Medical Center in Pleasanton, part of Stanford Health Care, the Sius were referred to a hospital that had an on-site ophthalmologist (eye specialist). While Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in Palo Alto wasn’t the closest facility—about a 30-minute drive over the bay in evening traffic—the Sius quickly chose to make the trip.
Now, two months after their son’s excellent recovery, they say it was well worth the drive to Packard Children’s Hospital, which was recently named by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 U.S. children’s hospitals for 2022–2023.
“Because it’s the area’s leading children’s hospital, we knew we would find a pediatric ophthalmologist on staff,” said Donna. Having that expertise was very reassuring, added Henry. “The first thing I thought was that my son was going to be blind, and my daughter was going to live with guilt because she’s the one who caused it,” he said. Between the swelling, the bloody eye, and tears, the Sius feared that Liam might face multiple surgeries. Thankfully, none of those scary scenarios happened, and Liam was back to himself a month later.
Resident eye specialists on-site
The Sius are grateful to the Packard Children’s Emergency Department, where Liam was immediately given a CT scan to check for broken bones. He was then examined and treated by Lucie Guo, MD, the ophthalmologist resident on call that night. Residents from each specialty are always available at Packard Children’s, which gives children access to whatever care they may need.
“Anytime there’s an eye trauma, including a blunt one from a bat, we worry about orbital fracture, ruptured globe, retinal detachment, and other sequelae (aftereffects),” said Dr. Guo. “Fortunately, Liam didn’t have those, but he did have a hyphema, which means blood in the layering of the anterior chamber of the eye.” When this happens, she added, it can cause increased intraocular pressure, which has to be monitored closely in the days after the injury. Liam was prescribed eyedrops for a few days to reduce risk of further bleeding.
Since the accident happened on a Thursday and Liam needed to have his eye pressure evaluated over the weekend, the Sius returned to the Packard Children’s Emergency Department, where they were seen by Elaine My Tien Tran, MD, another resident ophthalmologist.
“It’s so important to have a thorough eye exam after trauma,” said Dr. Tran, “as there can be a myriad of injuries to the eye that require timely treatment. In this case, an untreated hyphema can sometimes cause synechiae (adhesions in the anterior chamber), [cause] increased intraocular pressure that can injure the optic nerve and cause permanent vision loss, or stain the cornea and decrease vision.”
Referral to a pediatric ophthalmologist
Liam’s pressure was normal, and he was doing well, so the hospital referred him to Scott Lambert, MD, pediatric ophthalmology service chief at Stanford Children’s Health, for follow-up several days later. “I reassured mom that Liam was doing fine and would be OK. The eye was healing well, and no blood or pressure was building up,” said Dr. Lambert. He recommended that Liam, or any child after a serious eye injury, have a yearly exam.
Dr. Lambert also cautions parents about sports accidents being the No. 1 cause of eye injury in children, especially during baseball and lacrosse seasons. In any eye injury, he said, it’s always advisable to see an eye specialist right away for a full evaluation.
Clinical teamwork between hospital and community doctors is part of what distinguishes the Stanford Health Care system. “The collegiality between providers is amazing,” said Cyril Archambault, MD, fellow, Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, who helped oversee Liam’s care in the Emergency Department. “Everyone on the team is always ready to help with a patient. The residents have great examination skills and can convey exam findings well. The team works through solid communication between the doctors in the hospital, usually the residents, and the faculty on call.”
Peace of mind from Packard Children’s
The Sius couldn’t agree more. “We got peace of mind by traveling a little extra, crossing a bridge, and getting the best care from the smartest minds,” said Donna. “I knew they would have amazing and highly qualified residents from Stanford School of Medicine. We had full faith in them. In addition to being so smart and qualified, they were kind. As parents themselves, they had great emotional intelligence, too.”
“God forbid something like this should happen again,” said the Sius, “we would drive to the other side of the bay. We got excellent care at ValleyCare, and Packard had the expanded expertise we needed.”
As for Liam, he expressed gladness that the ordeal was over. When asked about his doctors, he said, “They were quick and it didn’t hurt.”