23 May, 2019
QEI Clinic’s young patient, Oscar might not need an introduction to those who have been long-time supporters of the Queensland Eye Institute Foundation (QEIF). Back in 2015 we featured Oscar in our Christmas newsletter and shared his story of enduring over 15 operations by the age of five to control his congenital glaucoma.
Oscar’s mum, Melissa noticed something unusual with his eyes when he was only five months old. “I kept looking at him and felt that his left eye was bigger than his right,” she says. After Melissa had visited the family GP, Oscar was immediately referred to a paediatric ophthalmologist who diagnosed Oscar with congenital glaucoma. After numerous operations the pressure in his left eye was stabilised, however in 2014 Melissa noticed that his left eye had increased in size again meaning that the pressure in his eye was high. Oscar was then referred to Dr Mark Chiang, QEI Clinic’s Glaucoma, Cataract and Retina Specialist.
On the first visit Oscar was given two options from Dr Chiang. One was a trabeculectomy – which would have meant that Oscar would never swim or he’d be unable to enjoy contact sports and would live with a life-long risk of infection in the eye. Or he could receive a Baerveldt tube implant.
When Dr Chiang talked through the two options Melissa and Oscar’s Dad, David instantly agreed to go with the implant and asked if he could do it tomorrow. Dr Chiang was surprised and a little shocked by how quickly they responded and said to them both, “You know I am cutting your son’s eye open?’
Within a year, Oscar had undergone two glaucoma implant surgeries and a 4-hour emergency surgery to save his eye using donated corneal tissue.
After the surgeries Oscar was petrified to open his eyes for fear he couldn’t see and it took him days to work up the courage. “He would just sit with his head down eyes closed and listen to Disney’s Frozen movie on the TV over and over and over,” recalled Melissa. Elsa has been a big part of Oscars’ journey with his eye condition. “She helped me get over the fear and just do it,” remembers Oscar.
After Oscar’s eye had healed his pressure increased again. Before his next operation, Oscar said to Melissa, “If I am brave mummy, can I pick anything I want?” Melissa agreed to it. “I want an Elsa dress,” said Oscar. After being brave enough to endure another operation and recovery, Oscar had been visiting the QEI Clinic in his new dress.
In 2016 Oscar finally started school and has loved it ever since. “I cried tears of joy on the first day as he was so excited to start school after spending a lot of time at home with me as he wasn’t allowed to go to Kindergarten and Pre Prep due to his eye surgeries,” says Melissa. When Oscar has to go for an eye appointment from the Gold Coast to Brisbane during school time, he always reminds Dr Chiang that he is, “interrupting his education!”
This year, to the family’s delight Oscar has started playing soccer, a sport he had previously been too worried to play in case he hurt his eye.
Oscar, who has just turned nine is now regretting his wardrobe choice and has packed away his Elsa dress, heels and jewels to close that chapter of his life!
Unfortunately there is still a long road ahead. In 2018 Dr Chiang told Oscar and Melissa that Oscar has sadly developed a cataract in his glaucoma affected eye and surgery will only take place if the cataract worsens.
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“We are stuck in limbo,” says Melissa. Due to the complexity of the surgery, it is likely to affect Oscar’s eye pressure levels. The vision in his left eye has dramatically reduced from the cataract. Oscar is currently having to patch his good eye for two hours each day to keep the connectors between his bad eye and the brain open, in the hope that when the cataract is removed, Dr Chiang will be able to claw back some vision.
Oscar will likely need high doses of steroids as his eye has become inflamed post surgery, however the steroids increase the pressure in his glaucoma affected eye. “It’s a double-edged sword now,” says Melissa.
Oscar is currently on 10 eye drops a day to maintain his eye pressure. His cataract will have to worsen for him to have surgery which means Oscar will lose even more of his current sight. He will probably need laser surgery for eye pressure at some point too as he’s having issues with scarring.
“We know this will be a long journey but Dr Chiang is hopeful that Oscar will be able to read some of the eye chart at the age of 70,” adds Melissa.
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