This week, on Thursday, we took Geri to the appointment about which we have been most excited - the ophthalmologist.
In short, we knew when we adopted our daughter that she has congenital glaucoma, meaning that she had been born with improper drainage of the fluid in her eye leading to increased eye pressure. This increased pressure causes blindness by damaging the retina and optic nerve, the degree of the damage being related to the amount of blockage and how long it is left untreated. When we brought her home, we knew that she could see lights and outlines, high contrast and bright light being easiest for her.
The ophtho was amazed at what she found. Normal eye pressures are in the 10-20 range. At 30, the doctors are alarmed. Hers was almost 60 in each eye! (The dr. compared it to having a blood pressure of 400/240.) Congenital glaucoma is always treated with surgery in the US, typically performed by 6 months of age. Geri was diagnosed at 6 months, received no treatment at all until 3 years, and then was given eye drops. Drops which the doc said are the least effective ones they could possibly prescribe. The pressure of her eyes has caused them to swell, stretching the cornea and causing clouding due to the tissue being essentially pulled to the breaking point.
The first words out of the the doc's mouth was "Has she been evaluated at the School for the Deaf and Blind?" She assumed, just looking at our daughter, that she was entirely blind.
She was shocked to find that she is most certainly not. She repeatedly said that Geri should NOT be able to see as much as she can. She was amazed to see our daughter track objects, reach for them, and follow light with her eyes. She was so amazed that she actually called a med student in from home to see our daughter because she said he would never see anything like this again. She examined Geri's retinas to see how many blood vessels are still intact. Over time, the pressure kills off the blood vessels and the loss of those vessels causes a corresponding loss of vision. She expected to find around 20-50% of the vessels still intact.
They were completely intact. Near as she could tell, and our daughter was not cooperating so there is a margin of error here, there was almost no loss of blood vessels in her eyes. There was evidence of damage to the optic nerve, but that doesn't relate as directly to loss of vision as the condition of the retina.
There is still a chance of regaining some of her vision. The doc said that, in her opinion, it's possible. It shouldn't be, but it is.
Next Tuesday we will take her to Denver to meet the surgeon and get his opinion. The surgery will happen regardless of whether he predicts any potential gains in vision, but it will be interesting to hear what he thinks. If nothing else, reducing her pressure will make her more comfortable. On Wednesday, he will perform a surgery that is 3 1/2 years overdue.
We are praying for a miracle, and we are asking others to pray with us. I firmly believe that there will be a miracle, because God has already started it! The tiny amount of vision she has now is, without a doubt, a miracle. She should not be able to see anything at this point, but if I hold my hand out with a toy in it she will reach out and take the toy without hesitation and without missing her aim. If she is sitting on the floor near her toys, she will reach out and pick up something that is just sitting there inert. Without movement or sound or flashing lights as clues, she can find an object in 3D space. She loves to look at herself in the mirror. If I hold out my hand to her, she takes it. That's a miracle, and that's after four years of receiving no real treatment. What more will God do when the best doc in the region repairs the damage with a surgery shown to be 80% effective (assuming he opts for the open angle surgery, which I think he probably will based on my reading)?
It wouldn't be the first time he opened the eyes of the blind.