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Girl To Have Rare Eye Surgery In Middletown

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    Posted: Mar 25 2010 at 12:26pm
Taken from Cincinnati.com
It's been a long journey for the Egyptian girl, 4, and her mother, the kind measured in more than the thousands of miles they traveled to meet with surgeon Michael Snyder at the Cincinnati Eye Institute.

Maya will be the third child under 10 to receive the HumanOptics implant in the United States. It hasn't been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration yet, so she will receive it under a compassionate use exemption, Snyder said, which the FDA grants on a case-by-case basis.

Maya and her twin brother, Mazem, were born prematurely, said their mother, Maha Samy. Maya has had several health problems, needing surgery to correct a heart defect and to correct a congenital condition that left her unable to hear.

She was just 4 months old when Samy noticed a white spot in her right eye.

"The doctor said it was a cataract," she said.

Maya was also diagnosed with glaucoma, or increased pressure in the fluids in the eye.

Several surgeries corrected the cataract and glaucoma, but they also damaged the eye, causing the pupil, the black part of the eye, "to disappear," Samy said. Without it, light can't enter the eye.

The only solution was for surgeons to essentially cut the iris, the colored part of the eye that opens and closes to let light in, so that it's always open. A remnant of her iris is left, and will remain in place after the surgery.

Maya can see, but there's no way to limit the amount of light entering her eye. In a sunny climate like Egypt's, Samy said, her daughter is subjected to almost constant bright light. It's often painful for her.

"It's very difficult to see like that, especially in bright climates," Snyder said.

The damaged iris needed to be fixed for Maya to see normally, but nothing was available in Egypt.

Her doctor told Samy about the prosthetic iris. Samy went online and found an Enquirer story about a 7-year-old boy who was the first child in the U.S. to get the implant in 2008 at Cincinnati Eye Institute. She also found a video about the procedure on YouTube.

She e-mailed staff at the eye center, and Maya's doctor sent her medical records to the center.

This past fall, Snyder was able to meet Maya's Egyptian doctor during a conference in San Francisco.

In all, it took about eight months for the family to make arrangements to get Maya here for the surgery.

"Maya's mother was the author and recipient of hundreds of e-mails," Snyder said.

During today's surgery, Snyder will implant the prosthetic iris, custom-made to match Maya's left eye, and also correct the placement of an artificial lens that Egyptian doctors implanted when her cataracts were repaired.

Cincinnati Eye Institute is based in Blue Ash, but the surgery itself will take place at Southwest Ambulatory Surgery Center in Middletown, where Snyder also has operating privileges.

Snyder will know in a day or two if the procedure worked. Maya and her mother will stay in Cincinnati through at least the end of April for follow-up.

When Samy and her husband realized how much care Maya needed, she quit her job as a personal assistant to stay home with Maya.

The family doesn't have health insurance, and are paying cash for the surgery, as well as their travel expenses.

Maya was born with hearing problems, which have since been corrected, Samy said. But at 4, she still doesn't speak.

"We want to find out why," she said.

Paying for the surgery and trip took all of the family's resources.

Samy hopes to find a specialist who would be willing to donate an exam to help her determine why Maya doesn't speak while they're in Cincinnati. Anyone interested can call Bobbi Shaw at the Cincinnati Eye Institute at 513-569-3770.

Samy brought her daughter to Cincinnati to have her vision corrected. She hopes that, while they're here, someone will help Maya speak.

"I want to hear her voice one day," Samy said.

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