CEI doctors perform surgery in hopes to improve girl's sight
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A team of local eye surgeons are making a big difference for a young girl with a rare syndrome. She's been traveling to Cincinnati from Alabama for a breakthrough treatment that may help restore her sight. She just turned 9-years-old, but she has a big fighting spirit. After 40 days in the hospital, initially in Alabama, she is now on the road to recovery thanks to a team of specialists at the Cincinnati Eye Institute who hope to help her see the world in the way her family is praying she will see it again. It was just a few months ago when little Phoenix went from a smiling, healthy girl to someone her family says they barely recognized.
As her condition deteriorated, her family said they stayed by her side and they began what has now become a worldwide campaign, they “Prayed for Phoenix.” “We stayed up and prayed all night long,” said Phoenix’s mother, Nicole Richey. “We really went and grabbed heaven and touched heaven and said we don't want her to go, heaven is a wonderful place but that's not where she needs to be right now.” Eventually, Phoenix was diagnosed with what's called Stephen's Johnson Syndrome
“It is a fairly rare disorder that starts with a red rash, and develops blisters on skin and mucus membranes, like the eye or mouth, and then that skin sloughs off,” said Dr. Jeff Nerad an Eye Surgeon.
Dr. Nerad says that can cause serious scarring to her skin and eyelids. But for Phoenix, that has not scarred her spirit. One the things her family is still praying for is better vision.
“I can see like people and fingers,” said Phoenix. “I just can’t see too far away.” The scarring has turned Phoenix's eyelids inside out and destroyed her ears, so Dr. Nerad is one of just a handful of surgeons in the country who just used tissue from her cheek “to reposition the eyelid so the eyelashes don't cause more scarring on the cornea.” Soon, they will head for the next step in this journey, but until then they have a special request from everyone, as you may imagine they are looking for a few more people to be part of the #PrayersforPhoenix chain. That's because Phoenix is being considered for a stem cell transplant. It uses donated cells from a family member and will repopulate or new cells will grow across the eye that will lubricate the eye. More than anything though, her family wants those “Prayers for Phoenix” to stay strong.
“At times, where we didn't even know what to do or what to think, what to say, her life has spoken to so many people,” said Phoenix’s father Joey. Her dad, who is also the music minister at her church says her favorite song is: “I’ve got joy, joy, joy in my soul, the spirit of the living all over you.” Which is not surprising, since Phoenix brings that joy everywhere she goes. Phoenix starts the fourth grade this year she has a follow up appointment on the stem cell transplant in September. Her family has invited us to follow her progress.