Two years after a freak accident damaged the eyesight of a 5-year-old girl, she's got nearly-perfect vision again. And her mother celebrated the miraculous moment with a “Wonder Woman” photo shoot.
"After 2646 hours of patching, 3 surgeries, and too many drops to count, our girl is finally done," Jessie Arambul of Washington recently wrote on Facebook, sharing photos of daughter Aliyah dressed as Wonder Woman and removing her eye patch for the very last time.
Aliyah's ordeal began two years ago, when she found her father's exercise resistance tube and decided to play with it. The band snapped, and the metal handle hit her in the eye. Arambul took her then-3-year-old daughter to their local eye doctor in rural Washington wine country. However, the trauma looked so severe, the doctor told them to rush to Oregon Health & Science University Hospital three and a half hours away in Portland.
"I will never forget the fear and guilt I felt that day. Keeping back my tears to stay strong for her," Arambul wrote in a February Facebook post.
"Everything seemed like it was going to be okay, but then a couple weeks later, she got a cataract," Arambul tells Yahoo Lifestyle. The family, including Aliyah's baby sister, packed up and returned to Portland for surgery. Doctors replaced Aliyah's damaged lens with an artificial interocular lens implant, a surgery typically done on elderly patients with cataracts.
That's when the real work started, for both Aliyah and her parents. According to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, when one eye is damaged, patching up the strong eye forces the weaker eye to work harder and strengthen.
Aliyah was given an eye patch to wear for hours each day. Does this sound nearly impossible to anyone else who's ever met a 3-year-old? Aliyah, fortunately, was up for the challenge.
"She did so good; she didn't ever try to rip it off," Arambul tells Yahoo Lifestyle. "There were a few hard days where she cried and asked, 'Why do I have to do this, Mommy? No one else has to do this.' But we made it through."
Aliyah underwent two more surgeries to remove scar tissue, but gradually over the past year, she's been able to wear the patch less as her eyesight improved.
"I think it matured her in that way," Arambul tells Yahoo Lifestyle. "It's also made her want to be in control of other situations in her life. She tries to make sure that her world isn't chaotic."
Arambul believes that her training as a social worker helped her cope with this ordeal herself, though it certainly wasn't easy. She still has a hard time walking by bungee cords in stores.
"It's kind of a lonely experience when your kid goes through a traumatic event, because there's not a lot of people who understand," she said. "There's a lot of guilt that's involved, because it was a preventable accident."
Last week, when Aliyah chose to celebrate the end of her eye patch with a “Wonder Woman” photo shoot, Arambul shared the images so other parents going through a similar ordeal know they're not alone. She also wanted to give a shout-out to Aliyah's surgeon, Dr. Lorri Wilson.
Arambul also has parting advice for other parents.
"I don't want parents to put their kids in a bubble," she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. "But be aware of your surroundings — if you have exercise tubes or resistance bands, make sure they're put away because it happens in an instant."
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