In April of 2013, when my daughter Brianna was 6, she had a vision screening at school conducted by volunteers from Bloomfield Lions Club in our home town in Ontario County, New York. She received a referral for a full eye examination. I was not concerned as back in February, Brianna’s eye exam at the pediatrician’s office was normal. Plus, my oldest daughter wears glasses. I made an appointment with our family optometrist for 2 weeks later. There, we found out that we had an emergency.
ANXIOUS HOURS, DAYS
It was Saturday, and our doctor was unable to reach a specialist willing to see Bri immediately. Therefore, she advised we go to an emergency room. When I said I knew a surgeon at a local hospital, she replied, “If you have any cards, you need to play them right now.”
Within a half hour, a chain went into action, and we arrived at Flaum Eye Institute in Rochester. Although the building was closed, a retina specialist was waiting for us at the doors along with, two ophthalmology residents, and another retina surgeon who was consulting on her computer remotely. The ultrasound revealed that Bri’s retina was completely detached. There was an MRI the next day, followed by a CT scan and then a meeting with the surgeons.
The specialists believed Brianna had Coats Disease or a retinoblastoma (a rare form of brain cancer). Because a biopsy can spread cancerous cells and the two conditions have the same outcome: removing her eye was really our only option. “You can get a second opinion, but time is not on your side,” the surgeons said. We opted for the surgery the next morning. We told Bri that her eye was sick, and that it had to be removed. It was devastating. The surgery was outpatient and Bri was in excruciating pain.
From the moment we arrived back home, though, it was like Christmas. Friends helped with groceries, and there were packages arriving every day. It was a sweltering summer. But, because Brianna could not go in the pool, the entire family stopped swimming. It truly brought all of us, especially the sisters, closer.
SUPPORT AND THANKFULNESS
Throughout this challenge, our family has tried to remember that there are other families and children in worse situations. We are very fortunate to have the Bloomfield’s Lions Club in our community. If it weren’t for their program, there’s a good possibility that Bri wouldn’t be here today. Brianna is 11 and in 6th grade, and her experience has helped her become a very caring sympathetic young girl. In 2015, we attended the annual Lions Day at the United Nations in New York and the Lions Clubs International Convention in Hawaii, telling our story and hoping to inspire more Lions clubs to conduct vision screenings.
For me, our story all comes back to the photoscreening and the Plusoptix device. I think that every school should have one. I think that every pediatrician’s office should have one. I have been advocating to my doctor’s office, because I know this is a powerful tool. We have been active in our local efforts to support the Lions and these fundraising efforts ensure they can purchase Plusoptix screeners for their programs.
“Comment by Plusoptix:
We are all grateful that Brianna is such a caring, sympathetic, young girl today. Although this case is fortunately not an everyday life occurance, it is to bear in mind, that such a case could occur again. Therefore, play it safe and take your child to get regular vision screenings.
At this point, special thanks go to Dorie Leitten, Brianna’s mom, for telling their story and sharing her thoughts with us. We wish you all the best in your future!”
Do you want to know more about preventive eye care? See www.visionscreening.org
More information about the Plusoptix Vision Screener is available under www.plusoptix.com/en/vision-Screener/landing