Preventing Blindness, Saving Sight

The Importance of Early Intervention

Astor Services for Children & Families knows – as data has proven – that children need a good start in life. The better the start, the more likely it is that children will be successful in school and be emotionally and physically healthy.

Since 1978, Astor has been a leader in the field of Early Childhood Development. Our philosophy is deeply rooted in providing quality, comprehensive child care – that is, our Early Childhood Programs not only benefit children, but their entire family.

Jackson at 10 months old.

Jackson at 10 months old.

Through our Early Head Start & Head Start programs, we provide comprehensive care and services to our children and families and in doing so, we form partnerships – The Lions’ Club, the New York University College of Dentistry, and others, in order to link our children up with getting all the services they need.

Knowing the “Glow”

This year, a family in one of our Head Start programs was greatly impacted by the Screening Eyes Early (SEE) Program, headed by The Lions’ Club, and offered throughout Dutchess County for children ages 6 months to 6 years. Because of this evaluation, one of the families in our Red Hook Head Start Program discovered an abnormality in their sons’ eye. According to the Lions’ See website, this program is approximately 85- 90% effective in detecting problems that may lead to Amblyopia (a fancy word for child blindness). It is more reliable than the standard tests a pediatrician performs for a young child.

Did you know… nearly one in 80 children is at risk of blindness?

Did you know… 80% of all childhood blindness is preventable or curable?

Did you know… 1 in 80 children may show “the glow” before age 9?

What is “the glow” you ask? “The glow” is an abnormal red eye reflex, which appears as a white or gold pupil in photographs. Its reflective shine is an indicator of several potentially devastating and preventable childhood eye diseases.

Jackson’s Story

Jessica and Jody Trudell, of Red Hook, noticed this glow in photos of their son Jackson’s eye since he was 10 months old. However, they did not think much of it. Jackson never complained of eye pain or soreness – which makes sense, there are no pain receptors in the eye. His pediatrician never picked up on any abnormalities either.

Jackson at two years old.

Jackson at two years old.

It just so happened that in October, the local Lion’s Club visited Astor’s Dutchess County Head Start Programs and performed their Screening Eyes Early (SEE) Program, in which they use a special screening device that looks like a handheld video camera to look at children’s eyes to detect abnormalities. It was not until Jackson’s vision screen came back that the Trudell family became concerned. Jackson did not just have what seemed to be a lazy eye; he had completely lost vision in his left eye.

Jackson was referred to an eye specialist for evaluation. It was determined that he had a detached retina, a scratched retina and a possible retinoblastoma, which is a rare cancer of the eye affecting children. He was further evaluated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

“We were completely floored. We never thought cancer,” said Jessica Trudell.

“In the X-rays of Jackson’s left eye, you could see the scarring and the retina detachment,” Trudell said.

Searching for Answers

The doctor at Sloan-Kettering asked the Trudell’s if they ever noticed a yellow glow in Jackson’s eye when doing flash photography. Immediately, their hearts sunk. Yes, they had, but why? What did it mean? This “glow” the ophthalmologist is referring to is an indicator of 16 diseases, including, but not limited to:

When the Trudell’s came home from Sloan-Kettering without a diagnosis, they began researching possibilities.

“I stumbled upon Coats’ Disease and saw many similarities,” Trudell said.

Currently, Jackson has not had an official diagnosis regarding his left eye.

Retinoblastoma has been ruled out.

“It all depends on how aggressive we want to be and how much we want to subject Jackson to,” Trudell said.

Jackson at five years old with his grandma, "Mimi."

Jackson at five years old with his grandma, “Mimi.”

On the Right Track

Currently, Jackson’s right eye is 20/20 and he just recently received his first pair of glasses! These frames are to protect his right eye. Jackson can still play sports and do anything and everything any other five year old boy enjoys doing.

The Trudell’s are so thankful for The Lion’s Club’s Screening Eyes Early (SEE) Program which was offered in Astor’s Head Start classrooms. They hope their story can raise awareness and prevent blindness in other children.

For nearly 100 years, Lion’s Club members have worked on projects designed to prevent blindness, restore eyesight and improve eye health and eye care for hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Lions volunteer to take part in sight projects that have:

Jackson is all smiles for the camera with his first pair of glasses on!

Jackson is all smiles for the camera with his first pair of glasses on!

Health Awareness in Our Communities

This example is just one of the ways our Head Start Program collaborates with other national organizations to bring health awareness to the center of the lives of the families we serve.