How A Mother’s Meticulousness Saved Her Child’s Life

October 13, 2017
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A Mother, Akshata Rao, was looking at a photo of her son and noticed a “white glow” in one of his eyes and said that the photo helped save his life. She told how her son Aayaan, who is six years old now, had discoloration in his right eye after having his picture taken with a flash when he was just over a year old. She immediately went to seek medical advice from a doctor in their hometown of Darwin but was assured that there was nothing wrong.

She immediately went to seek medical advice from a doctor in their hometown of Darwin, but was assured that there was nothing wrong.

“Then every time we took a picture with the camera’s flash we would see the white glow like a cat’s eye,” Ms Rao said.

She stated that it was only possible to see it in photos initially but that it started getting bigger with time. She kept insisting that doctors check it every time Aayaan went to get his vaccinations but the GP constantly kept disregarding it. The Mom exclaimed that doctors repeatedly told her that it was probably nothing and that it would go away on its own, one doctor even going to say, with unmeasurable confidence, that it was a beauty mark, but the mother could not settle down and still felt something was wrong.

When the family went over to India on holidays in 2013, answers started piling in when Aayaan was taken to an eye specialist who immediately said that something was wrong with Aayaan and referred them to the city where they had better equipment that had better detection capabilities.

Aayaan was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a form of eye cancer that affects children under five years of age. It was established that the tumor grew on his retina which detached from his right eyeball and was situated dangerously on his optic nerve which connected to his brain. The decision on what to do next was fairly easy, says Rao.

Aayaan was operated on at a hospital in Bangalore, South India and got chemotherapy treatment before being released with a healthy bill. In a matter of 10 days they had his right eye completely removed and treated after seeing the specialist. The condition would have been life-threatening if it had remained undiagnosed.

Aayaan is now a joyful, healthy and cancer-free year 1 student who has taken to living life with one eye fairly well, says his mother.

“He’s very cheeky, he’s absolutely very cheerful, a happy little boy, who is very active,” Ms Rao said. “We were so lucky that we noticed the white reflection in his photos. – Ms Rao

Akshata Rao and her husband Alok, wanted to raise awareness about retinoblastoma to other parents and wanted to share their experience and concerns with other parents.

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Sandra Staffieri, an orthoptist and retinoblastoma care coordinator at Melbourne Royal Children’s Hisoital said that not many people are aware of retinoblastoma because it was a rare form of cancer. She also mentioned that if an eye has a white pupil in a picture, it is most likely the fact that the flash is reflecting off something inside the eye.

She also mentions that if you notice that a child has a turned eye or a white pupil in photos, that you have your child’s eyes examined by a doctor, an eye specialist (ophthalmologist) within 48 hours, as early detection can provide the best possible chance of survival and retaining full vision.

According to ophthalmologists, retinoblastoma is the most common form of eye cancer found in children and affects about 1 in 15,00 or 20,000 children worldwide and that early diagnosis offers the best chance of survival.

The survival rate of children affected with retinoblastoma is 98% in Australia and New Zealand according to RANZCO.

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