Baby Gabriel arrived 9 weeks early, weighing just 2 pounds 7 ounces, only slightly more than a bag of sugar. Thankfully, his precious life was saved. But then came the news that he was at risk of going irreversibly blind.
“I was frightened and worried about Gabriel. He had problems with breathing. We were so afraid he would die. We prayed,” says his mother, Jonamae, remembering the birth.
Sight-saving treatment out of reach
Like other premature babies, Gabriel was in danger of going needlessly blind because of a serious eye condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). ROP occurs when blood vessels in the eye don’t develop normally. These abnormal blood vessels are fragile and can leak, scarring the retina and pulling it out of position, causing visual impairment and blindness.
At just 6 weeks old it was confirmed that Gabriel did have ROP. While early diagnosis like this can save sight, his family is poor and couldn't afford treatment to save his sight. Half the family income goes on the rent of a small flat in Taguig city, near the capital Manila.
CBM acts for babies like Gabriel
Fortunately Gabriel’s sight was saved through laser treatment carried out at CBM's partner hospital by one of the very few eye doctors in the Philippines who specialise in ROP.
He still needs monthly check-ups and has received further subsidised treatment because he was found to be very short-sighted and in need of glasses.
“He wears the glasses the whole day, except for sleeping”, Jonamae says. “The glasses help him to look straight.”
Gabriel is a bright little boy. “He practises walking”, his mother says proudly. Even more, he loves to climb on his mother’s and grandmother Thelma’s knees to look into their faces and at the new things around him.
Support for as long as it is needed
Gabriel continues to be monitored at our partner hospital which supports ROP patients not just after birth, but until they are grown up. Gabriel’s experience shows why this is important:
“Without the laser treatment the risk for Gabriel of going blind would have been very high. He will need glasses or other low-vision devices his whole life”, CBM’s expert Dr Manfred Mörchen says. “He will get even more short-sighted when he gets older. He needs to be examined regularly in the next 10 or 15 years,” he adds.
But it is a wonderful achievement that Gabriel can see at all. For families like his living in poverty, life is already tough. If Gabriel had needlessly lost his sight, they would have faced many new challenges.
Gabriel’s parents are hugely relieved that he is receiving the treatment he desperately needs so he has a better chance in life. “We are happy”, says Jonamae hugging her son.