Erika was born spontaneously at 34 weeks, listless and having a hard time breathing. Specialists at the Rockyview called in the genetics team from the Alberta Children’s Hospital, who determined she had a rare genetic deletion/duplication. Kristen says baby Erika is the only known surviving person with this condition in genetic literature. Among the many issues related to this deletion/duplication is glaucoma, a condition where the eyes have too much pressure and the optic nerve is damaged. Though initially it didn’t seem that Erika had glaucoma, further testing revealed that she did. Her eyes were cloudy and the pressure was in the 50s and 60s, where as normal is 10s-20s. At 2 months old, Erika was transferred to Unit 2 at the Alberta Children’s Hospital and the family met ophthalmologist Dr. Bill Astle.
Dr. Astle said there was a surgery that could save Erika’s vision but it’s typically not done until kids are older. However, he’d had previous success performing the surgery on young children and felt confident he could help Erika sooner rather than later. Within a few days, Erika went in for the operation. Kristen was a mess, pacing the hall and hoping that she and her husband were making the right decision. They just had to keep reminding themselves this was the best, and really, the only option to hopefully save their baby’s sight. After a couple of hours, Dr. Astle emerged to tell them everything had gone perfectly. He had inserted valves into Erika’s eyes to relieve pressure and ensure the pressure flow wasn’t damaging the optic nerve. Afterward, Erika had checkups every day for a while, and then bi-weekly and then monthly. Last month (Jan. 2017) she was given the all clear, as the surgery had been such an overwhelming success.
While Erika is still followed by several other clinics here at the hospital, having her sight will allow her to develop and progress despite some of her other challenges. Without her sight, meeting certain milestones would have been much more difficult, if not impossible. Kristen says the amazing vision surgery by Dr. Astle was “one thing that went right when everything else seemed to be going wrong.” The family is incredibly grateful for their teams at the hospital who are working hard to ensure Erika has the best life possible.