“For the first time in months, we are happy. They saved my daughter’s life!”
Sose and Tatev met while in college and after years of dating they decided to get married. Soon after tying the knot the young couple learned they were expecting a baby. They were overjoyed with the news.
Unfortunately, Tatev experienced a number of issues during her pregnancy and at six months the doctors had to perform an emergency cesarean section to save the child. Doctors told the young couple their baby had only a 50 percent chance of surviving.
Thankfully, the baby survived and they named her Michelle. However, like most premature infants, Michelle faced many health problems. She was diagnosed with Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a debilitating eye disease seen in premature infants that can lead to blindness if left untreated.
Prior to the EyeCare Project’s ROP Program, which was implemented in 2010, doctors in Armenia were not aware of ROP or how to diagnose and treat the relentless disease. If they did recognize the disease infants were often sent to other countries to be treated.
“It was completely new to us,” said one Armenian physician, Dr. Inga Sargsyan, who works at the Yerevan State Medical University. “We didn’t know what to do.”
“It was very painful telling new parents, ‘Your child will never see again,’” said Dr. Tadevos Hovhannisyan, another physician in Armenia.
Sose and Tatev were grief-stricken and at a loss for what to do.
“It was unbearable when the doctor told us, ‘Your child is going blind,’” remembers Tatev. “The pain was agonizing,” added Sose.
However, soon after receiving the news about Michelle’s eye disease, Sose and Tatev learned about the Armenian EyeCare Project’s ROP Program, which was developed to eliminate preventable blindness in infants and children in Armenia.
Since 2010, the Project has expanded its ROP program and established a state-of-the-art facility — the Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Infant and Childhood Blindness in Yerevan — with cutting-edge medical equipment and advanced training for Armenian physicians and neonatology nurses.
Volunteer ophthalmologists who specialize in retinopathy of prematurity and other childhood eye diseases travel to the Center of Excellence from all over the world to train Armenian physicians. These include Dr. Thomas Lee, Director of the Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Dr. Chien Wong, a retinal eye surgeon in the U.K. who was recently featured in The Ophthalmologist magazine’s 2017 “Power List.”
With advanced training in ROP, facilitated by the EyeCare Project, doctors in Armenia can now provide quality eye care to their patients and eliminate preventable blindness among infants and children in Armenia.
Dr. Hovhannisyan said, “We can finally tell the parents that we have a solution!”
Because of the Project’s specialized ROP Program and the Center of Excellence, Michelle was able to receive the surgery she needed to save her sight. The procedure went very well and she no longer faces a lifetime of blindness.
“The doctors told us that our child has been saved from blindness,” said Tatev, getting emotional. “This is a new beginning for us. I’m overjoyed. Thank you very much.”
“For the first time in months we are finally happy,” added Sose. “They saved my daughter’s life!”
As for the baby, Michelle, she shows her gratitude by finally being able to look at her mother and father with a big smile. And her parents smile back with tears of joy.