“We were finally able to take a deep breath knowing garo will be able to see…”
Gevork Beyazbekyan and his wife Alina Alexanyan were forced to escape war-ravaged Syria when Alina was just four months pregnant with their son. Through ongoing fire and flying bullets, the couple was finally able to make it safely to Armenia. It was a true blessing and salvation for the family even though they left their life-long possessions and the family home behind in Aleppo. Gevork and Alina were ready to start a new life in a safe, welcoming environment — their motherland — where things were slowly getting back to normal. But then their little baby boy, Garo, was born prematurely with a condition known as retinopathy of prematurity in both eyes, a crippling eye disease found in premature infants that leads to blindness if not treated promptly.
Hopeless and devastated, Gevork and Alina returned home from the hospital while Garo was kept in an intensive care unit for premature babies for over two months. The newly repatriated family did not have the financial means to take care of any medical expenses and had no idea where to turn for help to save their baby’s sight.
In the past, surgeries to treat retinopathy of prematurity were not available in Armenia. Children like Garo would either permanently go blind or have to travel to neighboring countries to receive care, which was an overwhelming experience both for the parents and fragile premature infants.
In 2012, with support from the USAID, the Armenian EyeCare Project established its Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Childhood Blindness, equipped with a cutting-edge operating room and the latest medical equipment inside the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Yerevan, where premature infants are cared for. Since the Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Childhood Blindness opened in Armenia, the Armenian EyeCare Project has screened roughly 20,000 prematurely born infants in the country and provided sight-saving surgery or treatment to over 600 babies. These are the children who would have gone blind had they not received prompt care.
Thankfully, Gevork and Alina learned about the Armenian EyeCare Project’s Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Childhood Blindness and took Garo to be seen by the physicians. Following a series of examinations, Garo was able to receive treatment on both eyes by the local doctors, who were trained to perform this complicated surgery by their US colleagues as part of the ROP program, implemented by the Armenian EyeCare Project.
Garo’s parents were relieved and overjoyed to hear that their baby’s sight was saved. “We were finally able to take a deep breath knowing that Garo will be able to see,” Gevork shared. “The surgery was done completely free of charge and we are immensely grateful to the doctors for saving Garo’s eyesight!”
Following the surgery, Garo’s parents started noticing daily improvement in their son’s vision: he was actively following moving objects, curiously observing his surroundings and recognizing the faces of his family members.
“If it wasn’t for the Armenian EyeCare Project and the trained local physicians, our child would have faced blindness,” said Gevork.
“We are very grateful to the staff, doctors and donors of the Armenian EyeCare Project and will never forget this great act of kindness,” added Alina.
True happiness cannot be described with words alone, but it is clearly seen in the happy smile of Garo’s parents as they hug their giggling healthy baby boy! Their eyes are full of hope for Garo’s promising future.
The costs of maintaining the ROP program in Armenia is high and the Armenian EyeCare Project has been able to continue providing this vital medical service to premature babies in Armenia only through the ongoing generous support and commitment from our donors. We are grateful to all our friends and supporters for enabling us to save the sight of premature infants in Armenia.