I wish I may, I wish I might… Yes, fairytales and prayers really do come true. The grass is green and the sky is blue but if you don’t own a pair of special red shoes to click and you can’t see well enough to find the yellow brick road, then you may never find the way to create your own fable. The way is uncertain, with many scary moments and surely a wizard must exist somewhere, if only you could just get there. “Who is the wizard” and “where is there” asks the child?
This is no fable, but the real life story of Fernanda, a two-year old from Honduras with bilateral retinoblastoma, an eye condition caused by a malignant tumor. The story is so compelling that it just seems like it had to be a fairytale or an answer to a prayer...or maybe both?
Fernanda came with her mother to the Manos Amigas clinic in the fall of 2015 seeking medical attention as the child had a vision problem. As is typical in the country, the father is at work in some distant place and the mother is left at home to look after the family. In this case, the father was working in the U.S. The mother, looking for a solution to Fernanda’s eye problem, was able to make her way to neighboring El Salvador, as Honduras has very few ophthalmologists—only 82 in the entire country. The family was able to scrape together sufficient money only to learn that Fernanda, 20 months old at the time, had a cancer in one eye and alarmed that it could spread to the other one. Seeking treatment, the mother and child, residing in La Entrada, became aware of MA’s optometric services department and came to the clinic. The child’s right eye ball had been removed in Honduras prior to coming to the clinic with the recommendation for radiation for the other eye.
Two of SATC’a board members were in attendance at the time of the visit and they started to strategize on how to assist in the matter. Knowing that options and treatment protocols are limited in Honduras, the board members set up an appointment for a second opinion in the U.S., given that the mother and child would be coming to our country to be with the father. As these members recalled, their hearts ached for such a young child, knowing that the youngster enjoyed music, loved to dance, but she had hardly any chance for improvement in her quality of life if her situation was not remedied…and it was not going to happen in Honduras without assistance. An on-line appeal was made on Gofundme.com which brought in about $4,000. Through many travails and answered prayers, Fernanda, with the assistance of SATC made her way to WillsEye Hospital in Philadelphia where she was seen and treated by physicians in a specialized department known as Ocular Oncology Services. SATC considers itself extremely fortunate to have had the contacts and a role in creating the pathways leading to the “yellow brick road” where the wizards of diagnosis and treatment of eyes were able to ply their skills in saving some sight in the remaining good eye.
We are pleased to report that as a result of the interventions provided at WillsEye, Fernanda was fitted with a prosthesis in what is now a healthy socket in her right eye and the left eye, following treatment, shows no signs of malignant cells. These are outstanding results and the prognosis is positive. There is improvement in vision and the expectation is that with special glasses, Fernanda will have hand motion vision.