Melissa and her husband noticed that their son, Grant, began to develop a wandering eye when he was about three years old. Over time, this misalignment became more and more noticeable. Concerned, they began looking for a nearby doctor to have him checked and soon set up an appointment with Pediatric Optometrist, Dr. Christa Hunnicutt.
Dr. Hunnicutt began her exam of Grant by placing a patch over his unaffected eye and asked him to specify letters on the wall. He was only able to use his wandering eye for this test. Melissa thought that Grant was teasing, or just not cooperating, when he could not read any of the letters Dr. Hunnicutt was showing him. Melissa even stood in front of Grant and waved but she was further shocked when it was clear that he could not focus on her movement right in front of him! The optometrist then moved the patch to cover his wandering eye. With the use of his non-wandering eye, Grant was able to easily read the letters presented to him.
Melissa knew there was something significantly wrong.
Dr. Hunnicutt suggested they dilate Grant’s eye so that she could see more clearly. She asked Melissa to wait 45 minutes for the dilation to take effect. During this time, Melissa called her husband to come join her at the appointment. After the 45 minute wait, Grant’s wandering eye became fully dilated. The doctor could now easily see there was something concerning in the back of his eye. She referred the family to a retina specialist and and set up an appointment for the very next day.
When they took Grant to this examination, it only took the specialist a few seconds to diagnose Grant with Coats’ Disease.
Coats’ Disease is a very rare condition where the blood vessels behind the retina leak fluid into the back of the eye. There is no cure for Coats’, however there are treatments that can help prevent the progression of vision loss that accompanies the disease. Since this disease is very rare, Grant was referred to a doctor who was more familiar with this condition, Dr. Boldt in Iowa City, Iowa. Dr. Boldt was six hours away from their home but just a few days later they were in his office.
Dr. Boldt confirmed Grant’s Coats’ diagnosis. He informed the family that Grant’s condition was quite advanced but that his Coats’ eye was responsive to light. Dr. Boldt and his team were determined to save his eye and to preserve whatever vision possible.
Grant has been through five laser surgeries and months of patching therapy. His Coats’ Disease has responded very well to these treatments. He can now even see small objects up to two feet away! He will be checked every six months to see how he’s progressing and to make sure there are no further vessel leaks.
Grant has been amazingly resilient and his parents are so happy that they were able to get him to treatment in time to save some of his sight in that eye.
Melissa is very grateful to Dr. Hunnicutt for recognizing the seriousness of the issue when she scanned Grant’s eyes. She is further grateful for her help in having him immediately seen by the specialists who could help him win the battle against this rare disease!
Melissa now helps Know The Glow talk with other parents in the area who are following in her footsteps. She’s been a wonderful adviser to others who find themselves in similar situations. She hopes that in sharing Grant’s story and Glow photograph other children will find their way to care in time!