Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Battle to Avoid Blindness in a Six Month Baby

This is the story of a family from Mahbubnagar district of Andhra Pradesh. The parents of a six month old male child – Baby of Sujata - were relieved to have reached LVPEI in Hyderabad. They had been in shock for over a fortnight after being told by a local doctor that their baby’s vision was extremely poor. The doctor referred them to LVPEI, as did every other doctor they had frantically consulted. 

When the retina specialist at LVPEI examined the baby, it was clear that he had been born with a problem in both eyes; the diagnosis was Familial Exudative Vitreoretinopathy (FEVR), a genetic disease affecting the growth and development of blood vessels in the retina of the eyes, that progresses throughout life and requires the patient to continue to be in the care of a vitreo-retinal surgeon lifelong. Dr Subhadra Jalali explained to the bewildered parents that even if their child had been operated upon right after birth, perhaps only very little vision could have been restored.

Surgeries for tiny babies is always a hard experience for parents, more so in cases such as this one because the parents were aware that surgery would not restore 100% vision to their little one. Nevertheless, they put up a brave front as their baby had a cannula inserted on the back of his left palm, was anesthetized and operated upon, with the mother Sujata holding on to her baby’s hand through it all. It was a sobering moment when the baby was brought out to the in-patient ward with both his eyes patched; can some vision be restored for him?

Another anxious week lapsed before the baby was brought in for a repeat eye examination. This time, the baby was wearing eye glasses as his mother cuddled him close, looking to the doctor to confirm what she already knew as her baby had begun turning his head in response to sounds and light. Dr Jalali confirmed that some ambulatory vision had been restored in the baby’s right eye. 

The cornerstone of this whole experience, as readily acknowledged by the parents, was the specialized pediatric retina clinic and the comprehensive Children’s Eye Care Centre with its trained Optometrists and state-of-the-art facilities. What was a definite advantage was the availability of both clinical and rehabilitative care in the same facility; the capable staff at the Dr P R K Prasad Vision Rehabilitation Centre complemented the retina team’s clinical care by sensitizing the young couple to the positive outcomes of early intervention in such children. 

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