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An eye toward the future

February 17, 2015

Child’s vision care inspires parents to donate testing device

Story by Kerri Robins; photo courtesy Ian Jackson, Epic Photography

When Vaughn Parent was about four months old, his mother Korina noticed his left eye looked red, swollen, cloudy and different than his right eye.

“It looked like he had two different-coloured eyes, where the one was foggy-looking and had a film over it,” she recalls of her son, now four years old.

It was congenital glaucoma, a condition in which improper development of the eye’s drainage channels causes fluid buildup and high pressure within the eye. This pressure, known as intraocular pressure, can damage the optic nerve, cause vision loss and, ultimately, blindness. In 75 per cent of cases, it can occur in both eyes.

Four-year-old Vaughn Parent with his parents Cody and Korina, who are happy with Vaughn’s eye surgery at the Regional Eye Centre in the Royal Alexandra Hospital.But thanks to the Regional Eye Centre at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Vaughn underwent surgery to alleviate his congenital glaucoma by correcting the improper drainage in his eye.

He had surgery April 25, 2011, and his ophthalmologist, Dr. Karim Damji was fabulous,” says Korina. “Dr. Damji created a drainage system for Vaughn — and it was 100 per cent successful, so there’s no need for further surgeries.”

Korina and her husband Cody were so pleased with the Regional Eye Centre and their son’s treatment, that when they heard about the Icare tonometer — a non-invasive, hand-held instrument that eye care professionals use to check intraocular pressure of the fluid inside the eye — they donated $5,000 to the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation toward the purchase of one.

“Measuring the pressure in the eye is very important for glaucoma care, but it’s difficult to do in young children,” says Damji. “With adults, we use some freezing drops and may need to hold their eyelids open for a moment while we take the pressure measurement. With small children, this is very difficult if not impossible; therefore, we often need to sedate children for the measurements.”

But with the Icare tonometer, the test is painless and quick and the patient doesn’t need to have anesthetic drops or be sedated. The physician simply holds a small, lightweight probe that momentarily touches the cornea. Not only for children, it’s also beneficial for patients with dementia or other patients having difficulty keeping their eyes open.

“When my husband and I saw how easy the tonometer was to use, we knew we wanted to help purchase one,” says Korina. “Vaughn will have to undergo pressure testing and checkups in his eye every six months for now. Knowing the tonometer is available for his treatment and that he won’t have to be put under anesthetic is a huge relief.

“Dr. Damji and his team were awesome and stayed on top of Vaughn’s treatment and they have always been there for us. Vaughn has to strengthen his left eye now by wearing an eye patch on his good eye – so we all pretend we’re pirates to help him keep the patch on,” Korina says, laughing.

The tonometer cost just over $10,000, and Cody’s employer, Royal Camp Services and partner Primco Dene Royal Camp Services together matched the Parents’ donation with $2,500 each toward the purchase.

“It’s rare to be able to get an accurate pressure measurement on a child using technology meant for adults,” says Damji. “So having the Icare tonometer is a tremendous step forward for us.”

Andrew Otway, President and CEO of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, agrees.

“The Parents’ thoughtful gift goes a long way in providing an excellent level of care for our patients, and for this we are extremely grateful,” he says.

“We’re pleased to be part of such a caring community whose members look out for each other and are proud to support their local health care.”

Please visit www.royalalex.org.