Saving Sight for Babies
Pre-term babies are at high risk of developing a serious eye disorder that can lead to blindness without timely intervention.
Emma was born in Red Deer more than four months early, at 22 weeks and six days gestation. She weighed just 1.3 pounds and, with her severely underdeveloped organs, was in a fight for her life.
She spent the next five months in neonatal intensive care in Calgary and was reliant on tubes to breathe and feed. Then Emma developed Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a serious eye disorder putting her at risk of permanent vision loss.
Since she had been considered “at risk” for ROP, she was already under the close watch of a pediatric ophthalmologist who caught it right away and was able to inject medication into her eyes, ultimately saving her vision. Work to optimize her eyesight continued in the months ahead. She had laser treatment, went through a period of wearing a patch on one eye to strengthen the other, and now she wears glasses to help her see.
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Retinopathy of Prematurity
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While Emma’s parents, Bojana and Sasa, are so grateful for the early intervention that gave her the gift of sight, they have spent – and continue to spend – a lot of time in Calgary for her care.
“Calgary has always been where the support that Emma needed was,” says Bojana. “Although we are always happy to make the trip because we know it means she is getting the best care possible, it’s hard travelling so much and trying to manage our lives in Red Deer at the same time. I’m excited that the expertise and resources are expanding and that one day, Emma’s vision care might be managed right here at home.”
There are approximately 440 babies affected by Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) in central and southern Alberta each year. Infants who are at risk of developing the condition need to be screened once a week. However, many smaller or rural hospitals and centres are not able provide these tests. As a result, about 17 percent of ROP screening appointments with ophthalmologists in Calgary are for babies from out of town. Learn more.