“Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.”
David was born with Retinopathy of Prematurity, or ROP. It is a natural condition of severe prematurity. ROP is exacerbated by the use of oxygen, which causes extra blood veins to forms in the back of the eyes, blocking vision. ROP is responsible for more blindness among children in the United States than all other causes combined. His doctors cautioned us that at best case, he will probably never see without glasses. At worst case, he could be blind.
When he was three days old, he started seeing a world-renowned ophthalmologist from Newport Beach, California. At three months, his ophthalmologist performed the first round of surgery on both eyes. David was less than three months old and less than 3 pounds in weight at the time. He felt at that time that David needed at least one more round of surgery but that partial blindness was still the likely outcome.
One week later, on September 7, 1998, David Bear opened his big pretty eyes and I got to gaze into his eyes for the first time in his eighty (80) days of life. It was love at first sight.
For the next year-and-a-half David wore an eye patch on alternating eyes and we implemented an aggressive sight therapy program. At age two, his ophthalmologist performed his second set of eye surgery and he informed us that David had spots in his eyes and would need to start wearing glasses. With his glasses, his vision was 20/60.
A few years later David has his third set of eye surgery, this time to correct his wandering left eye and to bring both eyes into focus. This is when we discovered that David has macular degeneration. Prior to that day I had never even heard of MD, but now I see it everywhere. We left the hospital and David immediately exclaimed:
“I can see everything.”
He spent the next few days touching everything, saying “I can see the chair,” “I can see the table,” and “I can see …” He got tired of saying it long before we got tired of hearing it. With his new found vision he was no longer walking into walls, missing doorways when trying to walk through, or fumbling around trying to grasp things directly in front of him. It was so much more than we’d ever hoped for, but we still continued the Doman sight program.
February 16, 2006. Age 7.
I took David to see his doctor for his follow-up visit. We were concerned that David’s sight was deteriorating because he was standing closer to the television and looking over his glasses. We were convinced that he was ready for his next set of surgery, even though we had hoped we could have waited until after May.
The doctor examined David, and while he was talking to me, David started reading the letters on the wall chart without his glasses.
He could see the letter “E” at the top of the chart. His doctor became very excited and started conducting what seem like countless iterations of the eye chart in what was probably less than five minutes. I mistakenly thought the doctor was overly excited that David could read, so being the proud parent that I am, I explained to him that David had been reading for years. This world-renowned ophthalmologist then said
“Oh my God. It’s a miracle.”
David could see. Then reality sunk in (to the both of us) and Dr. Prepas clarified by explaining that David had astigmatism and now needed two pair of glasses – one for distance and one for seeing. My baby can see.
When we returned home, his father was waiting for us. David Sr. usually takes the Bear to the eye doctor because I get lost. In fact, he takes Bear to all the appointments that don’t involve needles or the dentist. As soon as he saw his son without glasses he immediately asked him if he had lost them. David Bear proudly exclaimed that it was a miracle and he didn’t need glasses anymore. Of course his father was skeptical until I confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis. My husband started crying right there at the front door.
That night at the dinner table for the first time, my son sat across from me, and I gazed into his beautiful dark brown eyes, and he smiled at me and for the first time, I saw my beautiful baby boy looking back at me.
The next morning, David Jr. proudly informed me that he dreamt that a miracle occurred and that he could see without his glasses. Then he flashed me his big beautiful smile and went for his morning bike ride around our cul-de-sac, without his glasses.
Our blind-at-birth baby can see, without glasses. Sometimes I wonder if he ever needed the surgery or the patches or the glasses. Was he ever vision-impaired? Did I imagine that he would grasp at an item several times before he could finally focus on the one he was reaching for, or did I imagine that my son was playing today without glasses on. I gaze into his beautiful eyes and think I must have imagined that his eyes were slightly crossed and wandered. There are only slight traces of any evidence that his eyes ever wandered. His face is so free from scars that he couldn’t have worn an eye patch for four months. I must have imaged that my baby was ever blind. Is this for real?
“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein
Some people say it’s a miracle, but I prefer to believe that this particular miracle was helped with two sets of cryotherapy, one set of eye surgery, two years of patch therapy, five years of aggressive vision therapy, and the full faith that our child was always intended to have sight. Miracles occur, but they aren’t always cheap or easy.