Hope in sight after 16 ops

Family tell of tears, sleepless nights after ‘special little boy’ diagnosed with glaucoma.

Logan and Catherine Christian have been told their son Hadley, 11 months, has an incurable eye condition. Photo / Chris Gorman
Logan and Catherine Christian have been told their son Hadley, 11 months, has an incurable eye condition. Photo / Chris Gorman

His parents describe him as a "special little boy" whose incurable eye condition has given his Auckland family many sleepless nights.

Hadley Christian has had to endure 16 operations on his eyes in the 11 months since he was born.

And at one point he had to have eye drops put in 18 times a day.

The Auckland baby, conceived on a fifth cycle of IVF fertility treatment, was born with glaucoma, a condition that damages the nerves running from the back of the eyes to the brain.

His parents, Logan and Catherine, of Mairangi Bay on the North Shore, noticed his eyes were very watery when he was about 9 weeks old.

Their GP tried topical antibiotics, but after four days with no change referred him to a specialist, who sent him to the Auckland District Health Board eye clinic in Greenlane. The eye specialist thought the baby's eyes were unusually large, which can be a sign of the disease in children, and tests showed very high pressure in his eyes.

Mr Christian, a manager at Auckland Transport, said hearing Hadley's diagnosis was heartbreaking. "It's taken all this effort to get him into this world through IVF and then to be told that he's got a condition that's incurable and he could go blind, it tears you to pieces.

"He's a very special little boy. There were lots of tears and lots of sleepless nights."

Hadley had the first of his 16 surgeries when he was 10 weeks. The first two didn't work so a different procedure, a trabeculectomy, was done.

That worked for a week, but then the eye pressure went back up, said Mr Christian. Hadley was in and out of hospital for two months for surgeries to make tiny adjustments.

The operation involves making a small opening in the eye, partially covered with a flap of tissue from the white part of the eye that acts like a valve to allow fluid to drain better, relieving the pressure.

Mr Christian said Hadley's eye pressure had been in the correct range since the last operation about six weeks ago.

"Hopefully the trabeculectomy will work. It's not a fix, you only manage it, it's not going to cure the problem. There's no cure for glaucoma, it has to be managed for life."

Hadley now had minor visual impairment and would probably need glasses. The cornea in both eyes had suffered damage too, which meant he was very sensitive to light.

Auckland DHB children's eye specialist Dr Justin Mora said glaucoma was rare in children. It could be congenital or a result of eye trauma or inflammation.

Surgery was more common in children with glaucoma than among adults and operations had been developed that were specifically for children.

Glaucoma

• A group of diseases that damage the optic nerve.
• Elevated pressure in the eye is the main risk factor.
• No symptoms at first.
• Causes progressive, irreversible loss of sight.
• No cure. Treated with eye drops or surgery.
• Family history of glaucoma increases a person's risk of having the condition.
• Glaucoma NZ estimates 68,000 people over 40 have the condition.
• July is Glaucoma Awareness Month.

On the web
More information: glaucoma.org.nz

- NZ Herald

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