Parents Shocked When Their Baby Wouldn’t Open His Eyes After Birth
Richie was a healthy newborn, so Kelly Lopez, his mother, wasn’t too surprised when he wouldn’t open his eyes after birth. Lots of babies don’t want to open their eyes to the bright lights of a hospital!
The staff at Banner Medical Center in Mesa, Arizona suggested that the baby’s face was swollen after the birthing process, and his eyes were probably closed from inflammation.
Lopez was still a little worried. Why wouldn’t Richie open his eyes to feed, or to look at her?
The hospital waited another 13 days. Then Richie received an MRI.
The MRI revealed that Richie had no eyes!
The Lopez family was shocked! Kelly Lopez had a completely uneventful pregnancy, and her ultrasound had revealed a healthy baby boy.
Richie was born with a rare medical condition called anophthalmia. This is defined as a total absence of eye tissue or absence of the eyeball within completely normal external structures. Sometimes the condition presents with very small bits of eye tissue, called microphthalmia. Richie has total absence of eyeballs, but does possess optic nerves.
His condition is found in one in every 250,000 people.
Expanders were sutured into Richie’s eye sockets, so that they would grow with his face, like eye sockets containing eyes. The expanders are inflatable orbital globes made of silicone jell. The globes, like normal eyes, stimulate bone growth and proper facial development.
Richie seemed to find them a bother, and rubbed both of them out of his eyes. One of them became lost forever, possibly eaten by the family dog. His mother found the other expander, and, with a surgeon’s phone assistance at 2 a.m., managed to reinsert the expander.
Kelly was very shaky during the process, but says she “knew I had to do it. I knew he needed this.”
Richie was immediately enrolled in special programs designed for the development of children without sight. He plays with toys created for a child without sight to progress normally.
Richie has normal optic nerves. New technology today utilizes the brain’s visual cortex to assist blind people with daily tasks. In fact, Australia will implant a bionic eye in 2016. This can restore sight to the blind even without eyeballs.
Companies like Microsoft, Baidu and IBM have recognized the needs of blind people and hope to promote technologies like “smart” glasses (think smart phone) and computer-vision software for the estimated 285 persons with impaired vision throughout the world.
Kelly Lopez is very hopeful that Richie will be able to see at some point in his life.
For now, technology for the sight-impaired is growing by leaps and bounds. As for the basics, Says Chieko Asakawa, an IBM researcher and professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, “The first step is to find out where you are. If a computer knows were I am, a computer can help a lot.”
Meanwhile, the development of “smart” canes with cameras, facial recognition software, self-driving cars and high-tech GPS systems insure Richie a bright and active future.