Program Prevents Childhood Blindness
Gayaneh had a very difficult pregnancy. Because of her high blood pressure, her newborn son was born premature. Among other things, Gayaneh’s baby had problems with his vision. He was diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity — or ROP — and if nothing was done to fix the issue, he would soon go blind.
Through the years, ROP had become a growing problem in Armenia — an epidemic. The eye disease is only found in premature infants, so, as healthcare improved in Armenia, and more premature babies survived, those same babies were developing ROP — which, if left untreated, could lead to blindness.
Thankfully, in 2010, the Armenian EyeCare Project began a program to treat ROP and save thousands of babies in Armenia from going blind. Ophthalmologists from abroad traveled to Armenia to train physicians to accurately diagnose ROP and treat it at the onset. In a year’s time, Armenian doctors were performing at the same level, if not better, than doctors in the U.S.
“You feel empowered,” Dr. Ruzanna Harutyunyan, Chief of the Pediatric Clinic at the Malayan Ophthalmological Center in Yerevan, said. “We are no longer operating in the dark.”
“It’s a liberating feeling being able to tell the parents ‘Yes, there is a problem, but we can fix it,’” Dr. Tadevos Hovhannisyan, who performs the complicated retinal surgeries, added.
Our ROP program continues to be a success in Armenia and has since expanded — with the Center of Excellence for the Prevention of Childhood Blindness.
“Thank God for this program,” Gayaneh said. “Not only did it give light to my child, but also saved many other children like him.”