Father teaches himself to make prosthetic eyes for his partially blind daughter to wear... after watching videos on YouTube

After their daughter Liberty, right, was diagnosed with two rare eye conditions, the Collins family moved back to New Zealand. Photo / via GoFundMe
After their daughter Liberty, right, was diagnosed with two rare eye conditions, the Collins family moved back to New Zealand. Photo / via GoFundMe

A loving Kiwi father was so determined to help his partially blind daughter that he taught himself how to make prosthetic eyes for her to wear.

Liberty, 3, was born with two rare eye conditions - microphthalmia and chorioretinal colobomas - which have left her completely blind in her right eye, and with an abnormally small eyeball.

After she became distressed during visits to New Zealand specialists, her father Dwayne Collins turned to YouTube to learn how to make eye conformer shells, which sit over her eye to give the illusion it is full sized.

Liberty and her brother Caius. Photo / via GoFundMe
Liberty and her brother Caius. Photo / via GoFundMe

"It took me about three months of practice and lots of failures before I had an eye I was happy to have her wear," Collins explained on a GoFundMe page.

The family were initially seeing Brisbane ocularist Trevor Dorahy, who they adored, but being from New Zealand, they returned home to help their daughter when Liberty was 11 months. The family have since returned to the Gold Coast.

Back in their home country, Collins says he went through some "terrible experiences" where his daughter became upset during visits to specialists, which left the father-of-two determined to do more.

"I couldn't handle it anymore, so I started teaching myself," he told Daily Mail Australia of the moment he turned to YouTube to begin learning how to create the shells himself.

At the time the family lived on a farm in New Zealand, and Collins took over the shed to make a small lab for his creations.

He said while he purchased the basic machines himself, a lucky connection with a kindhearted neighbour allowed him to possess some of the more advanced technology for free.

Liberty, 3, was born with two rare eye conditions. Photo / via GoFundMe
Liberty, 3, was born with two rare eye conditions. Photo / via GoFundMe

"My neighbour out on the farm in NZ at the time was a precision engineer," he explained.

"He and I sat down one night over a couple of wines and we designed a few of the machines ourselves and he made them for me.

"It was a bit hard to get them myself and they were pretty expensive, so he donated his time and materials for Liberty."

After three months of practicing with his equipment, and "a lot of failures", Collins felt confident enough in his work to try a homemade conformer out on his young daughter.

"I remember finishing it and thinking 'this one's gonna be alright'," he said.

Dwayne Collins said he went through some 'terrible experiences' where his daughter became upset during visits to specialists. Photo / via GoFundMe
Dwayne Collins said he went through some 'terrible experiences' where his daughter became upset during visits to specialists. Photo / via GoFundMe

"I ended up having a bit of a cry to myself and went and tried it on. It was pretty awesome."

Fitting a cover into your child's eye socket is not a pleasant experience though, and Collins admitted at times he finds it "all a bit much".

But Collins, who currently owns a maintenance and design company, now believes creating these eyes is his calling, and is raising funds to become a trained specialist.

He enrolled in a five day Bespoke Ocular Prosthetic course with Nottingham Trent University in the United Kingdom.

Making the eye is a tricky process. Photo / via GoFundMe
Making the eye is a tricky process. Photo / via GoFundMe
A completed eyeball. Photo / via GoFundMe
A completed eyeball. Photo / via GoFundMe

After he was accepted, he messaged John Pacey-Lowrie, the English ocularist who had unknowingly taught him how to make the conformers through YouTube, and shared his story with only a small hope of hearing back.

"We have since had a lot of correspondence back and forth via email and he has offered me 4 weeks one on one training at his clinic in Nottingham after I complete the university course,' he wrote on his GoFundMe page.

Collins says the training would make him one of only four people in Australia and New Zealand with his level of qualification, and he says he is excited to be able to help others.

Liberty is pictured wearing an eye conformer created by her father. Photo / via GoFundMe
Liberty is pictured wearing an eye conformer created by her father. Photo / via GoFundMe

WHAT IS MICROPHTHALMIA?

Microphthalmia is an abnormality in the eye, which occurs before birth.

The condition makes one or both eyeballs abnormally small, to the point where for some, the eyeball may appear to not be there at all - though there is eye tissue present.

Source: US National Library of Medicine

WHAT IS A CHORIORETINAL COLOBOMA?

A coloboma is a defect in the eye which results in a gap or hole in the ocular structure.

It is a condition present from birth that may affect the eyelid, retina, choroid and optic nerve.

Source: Atlas RL Eye

- Daily Mail

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