Diagnosis: Bilateral Retinoblastoma
In 2009, Hien Vu left her home and her entire family in Vietnam. She dreamed of studying in the United States and eventually moved to Arizona on a student visa where she attended college at Arizona State University. Hien worked very hard during this time not only on her English, but also graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in mathematics. It is also here that Hien met her husband, and over time became a full United States citizen.
In 2019, Hien and her husband welcomed their first child, a little girl named Maelyn Erin. Maelyn was a very healthy and happy baby. She hit all of her developmental milestones and was the joy of her parents’ lives. When Maelyn was 3 months old, Hien’s husband noticed that Maelyn’s eyes had started to wander. Not overly concerned, they mentioned the misalignment to Maelyn’s pediatrician. They were reassured this behavior was normal for newborns.
However, the behavior did not stop and the parents grew concerned this may be a sign of something more. It was not until they met with a third pediatrician when Maelyn was four months old that they were given some answers. Hien says this visit changed the course of her daughter’s life. Dr. Chris Cwik knew immediately that there was a serious problem and called Phoenix Children’s Hospital to have them immediately seen.
Here they met with Dr. Aparna Ramasubramanian. Maelyn was diagnosed with Bilateral Retinoblastoma. She had tumors in both of her eyes. She had several tests to determine the severity of this cancer and was admitted that day to the hospital to start a regimen of systemic chemotherapy.
Between four and ten months old, Maelyn received six rounds of systemic chemotherapy. By February of 2021, her chemotherapy was completed. Dr. Ramasubramanian was able to save most of the vision in Maelyn’s right eye, and some limited vision in her left. As of now, no laser or cryotherapy is necessary.
Once Covid hit the United States, Hien’s family decided to move to a farm in Delaware where they could work from home and take care of Maelyn. As a result, they moved their treatments to Dr. Carol Shields at Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia. The family travels two hours every three months to check on the tumors and to make sure there is no new growth.
Maelyn is now two years old and is thriving. She is a very happy and healthy little girl. Hien is very grateful that her condition was discovered so early in its development as she knows that left untreated, Maelyn’s outcome could have been much different. She hopes that by sharing their story not only will other families be aware of the signs of serious eye disease but that all pediatricians will be more aware of the warning signs of potential vision issues.