Patient's Stories

Eleanor’s Story: Her Journey with Microphthalmia

Confidence doesn’t come in a bottle. You can’t buy it. You can’t sell it. You can’t catch it or earn it. Confidence comes from within. And so, we want to tell you the story of six-year-old Eleanor, or Ellie Belle as her mother affectionately calls her.

Eleanor’s mother, Virginia, a NICU nurse and first-time mother, had a normal pregnancy: the usual cravings, typical weight gain, and other various challenges that pregnancy brings. What Virginia didn’t know about was the challenge that would come after her pregnancy.

Eleanor was born on a cool October afternoon. And at first, she looked like any other normal and healthy newborn little girl: ten fingers, ten toes, healthy lungs, and a headful of brown hair. But there was something different that Virginia and the doctor and other nurses did notice. Her left eye wouldn’t open. Was it swollen?

Upon further examination, it was realized that newborn Eleanor’s eye wasn’t structurally correct. And that’s when Virginia heard the diagnosis: microphthalmia. She’d heard of it in nursing school and seen pictures in textbooks, but not yet come across the condition in her professional career. But here it was… with her own firstborn child.

The hospital recommended a local ocularist, and Eleanor’s treatment journey began. She started her treatment by receiving a conformer every four months so that she could eventually receive a full prosthetic eye. And Eleanor began wearing glasses at nine months old; she could see well with her right eye, but not with her left eye.

The doctor there would perform eye exams with Eleanor under anesthesia. These exams became increasingly stressful as Eleanor grew older. But Virginia didn’t know that there were different options for her daughter’s treatment. It was only when Eleanor’s treating ocularist announced his retirement that Virginia began to look elsewhere and found Carolina Eye Prosthetics.

“The number of ocularists in North Carolina is limited, so I felt good about going to Carolina Eye Prosthetics because I read that Anna is a board-certified ocularist,” said Virginia.

Virginia describes Carolina Eye Prosthetics as being family-oriented, kid-friendly, relaxing, comfortable, and very compassionate to patients.

“The team at Carolina Eye Prosthetics has been nothing but comforting to us, and they cater to us and treat us like family,” said Virginia. “As a parent, I am very protective of my daughter, and Anna definitely reassures us that we are in the right hands.”

As a curious child, Eleanor asks lots of questions: Can you see with both of your eyes, Mommy? How come my eye is different? “It’s your Jesus eye, Ellie Belle,” her mother would say.

“They’re so awesome at making Ellie Belle feel comfortable,” said Virginia. “Anna does a great job of explaining everything they do. She talks us through every step of the process. And she even tells Ellie Belle, ‘You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do’.”

Eleanor has always done well with her vision therapy and treatment. She gets a new painted prosthetic eye/scleral shell every two years and visits Carolina Eye Prosthetics every six months for a cleaning. Driving from Goldsboro to Burlington, Eleanor and her mother make a whole trip of it every time and stay with nearby family.

“Kids are resilient. Yes, there are hard times, but kids will roll with it,” said Virginia. “If your child has microphthalmia, ask lots of questions—big questions and super small questions—because there are so many things you don’t know—and the answer might not be as scary as you think.”

Today, Eleanor is a curious, vivacious, and very confident six-year-old girl with an entire lifetime ahead of her. She practices gymnastics and dance, rides a bike, reads, and is a big sister to her little brother Win. Oh, and she’s outgoing and doesn’t hold back.

“She feels great and looks great—and most kids don’t even know there’s anything different about her,” said Virginia. “And when she does take her prosthetic eye out, she confidently says, ‘This is my Jesus eye’.”

Carolina Eye Prosthetics has assisted many families and children like Eleanor with microphthalmia. We look forward to meeting you and having you as part of our family too.

Learn how Carolina Eye Prosthetics can help you.

Contact us using our online form or give us a call today at 877-763-9393.

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