For most of Nicolly Pereira’s young life, she couldn’t see or hear her mother. She couldn’t speak or walk either and relied mostly on her sense of touch and smell to recognize and communicate with her parents.
Two-year-old Nicolly was born with pediatric glaucoma, a rare condition that causes excess fluid to build up inside the eye, damaging the optic nerve. It affects only one in 10,000 children. For young patients though, the condition is curable.
After seven unsuccessful surgeries in her home country of Brazil, her distraught mother, then 26-year-old Daiana Pereria, shared her family’s struggle and hope for their daughter to one day see in a now-viral Facebook post. Eventually the heartfelt plea led a reader in Miami to contact two local organizations who together raised nearly $20,000 for the toddlers surgery at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami.
Kindhearted strangers across the social networking site also provided the family with housing and gift cards for their 6-week stay. The parents of a 17-year-old son who lost his life in a car crash in 2008 and founders of the Kevin Garcia Foundation, Carlos and Maria Fiallo, raised $15,000 for the operation costs. A 10-year-old boy reportedly donated his personal prize money he won from a racing league to fund Daiana and Niccoly’s flight from their home in Santa Catarina, Brazil to Miami for the life-changing operation.
When they arrived at Bascom Palmer, doctors realized just how severe the little girl’s case was. Normally, similar patients they have a measurable degree of vision, but when Nicolly came in, the toddler was completely unable to see light in one eye and could barely see light in the other.
The healthy eye pressure range for children is between 10 to 20. Niccoly’s was at 50.
Doctors at Bascom Palmer also discovered the little girl’s hearing impairment was caused by fluid buildup in her inner ears. Dr. Ramzi Younis, a pediatric ear, nose and throat doctor at UHealth, drained her ears in a surgical procedure that took about 30 minutes and restored Nicolly’s hearing the same day Dr. Alana Grajewki restored her vision in a three-hour surgery on March 16, 2016, and reduced her eye pressure to 12.
Nicolly’s eye patches were removed and her pink eye glasses were put on, she saw her mother for the very first time. A wide smile filled little Nicolly’s face as she pressed her forehead against her mother’s and felt her face with her tiny hand. The incredible moment was captured on video.
“The only word that can be used to describe the feeling is ‘God'” said Niccoly’s mother, Daiana.
Dr. Grajewski felt the love in the magical moment unfolding before her eyes. “I loved the feeling of first seeing her mom’s face. That just moved me so much. . . . Then all of a sudden, she realized: ‘Oh my gosh, that’s my mom.’ And her mother could tell the recognition. It was just one of those moments — priceless.”
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