Meet the eye doctor saving babies from a lifetime of blindness | Orbis
Young female patient Genesis from Peru sits on her mom's knee during an eye screening

Meet the eye doctor saving babies from a lifetime of blindness

Every year in Peru, more than 7% of babies are born premature and are at risk of developing one of the leading causes of childhood blindness, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

When a child is born early, the blood vessels at the back of their eyes can grow abnormally and permanently damage their retinas – putting them at risk of losing their sight. But with the right awareness, knowledge and equipment, ROP is entirely preventable.

But it’s also a race against time when it comes to treating ROP, and it's the reason why we’re working shoulder to shoulder with partners, like Dr. Edwin Celiz Alarcón, to save babies from a lifetime of unnecessary blindness.

Dr. Celiz is a retina specialist in Peru, who has been fighting ROP at our partner hospital, Trujillo Regional Hospital. His role is crucial because with ROP, the timing and delivery of treatment can mean the difference between a child going blind or living a life with healthy sight.

Dr. Celiz has been working at Trujillo Regional Hospital for seven years and says that up until a few years ago, there was no dedicated retina service there.

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, Orbis stepped in to train the team and establish neonatal services, complete with the equipment and medication necessary to save the sight of babies born prematurely.

Orbis-trained ophthalmologist Dr. Celiz sitting down with screening equipment in Peru

Dr. Celiz has received specialist training thanks to Orbis supporters.

From having absolutely nothing to having everything now, it's already a satisfaction. And my vision is to continue saving the eyes of all the citizens of the world.

Speaking about being trained by Orbis, he added: “I had deficiencies in training because not all surgeons performed cataract surgery or retinal surgery. Orbis trained many doctors at IRO (Instituto Regional de Oftalmología) and that's why it has improved a lot."

Dr. Celiz and his team are on call Monday through Saturday, and each day is dedicated to a different service for the tiny patients they meet, whether it be surgery, outpatient clinics, or consultations.

The specialist believes good eye care is critical, and says: “Ophthalmologists and all the people believe that vision are windows, the window of people's lives, right? Vision is, I believe, the most sacred thing in a person.”

Genesis Can Grow up With Sight

When we met Dr. Celiz, he had just saved the vision of a young girl, named Genesis, who was born at just 26 weeks and weighed barely over one pound. Little Genesis' situation was dire. She required constant medical care and was also at risk of going blind just as her life was beginning.

Her mother, Lizbeth, was worried her daughter might not survive and recalled: “They took her to [intensive care] with a ventilator and respirator. The pediatric doctors never gave me any hope. They told me that the baby was very little and that she wasn’t going to make it.” But Genesis showed a remarkable will to live and her vitals began to slowly improve.

However, Lizbeth was dealt more troubling news when doctors examined Genesis’ eyes. They told Lizbeth that her daughter was likely to go blind.

Thankfully, through careful monitoring, quick action and the expertise of Dr. Celiz, Genesis is now recovering from grade 3 ROP. Now four years old, the outlook is good and her vision is strong.

She will see even better in the future with follow-up treatment to correct her strabismus (squint), a small complication of ROP. Dr. Celiz shares: “I think she is a patient with a very good prognosis. For a child, up to the age of 8, they must develop all of their visual capacity. May it reach 100% or 20/20. And this we are going to help her with the lenses that normally improve.”

And while patients just like Genesis have a brighter future ahead, he would like to see more training, the latest technology, and better policies that will improve the timing and delivery of treatment of ROP. As he says, "In retinal patients, the delay time is high, it is long and sometimes the retina doesn't forgive.”

While great strides have been made, it's clear there is still much work to do to ensure Dr. Celiz, and eye care teams all around the world, can give premature babies the best start in life.

Four-year-old Genesis and her mother, Lizbeth.

Your Support Is Critical

Did you know it can cost less than $5 to examine a premature infant for ROP – and less than $250 to provide vision-saving treatment to a newborn in need?

That’s why your support is so critical. We hope you'll consider making a donation today so more children, just like Genesis, have the chance to chase their dreams and reach their full potential.

  • $50 can help provide ROP screenings for 10 premature infants.
  • $100 can help provide screenings for 20 babies born prematurely.
  • $250 can help provide the treatment needed to save a newborn baby’s vision.

Give a Gift Today

Help ensure more children, like Genesis, can live a life free of blindness.

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