MRU saves eyesight of student’s son
It is every mother’s worst nightmare. Being thrust into a situation where they’re completely powerless in helping their suffering child. For Mount Royal
student Pat Hinds, this became an unwelcome reality.
As most people were preparing themselves for the holidays, Hinds was struggling to find funding to save the sight of her 16-year-old son.
“Every time I would make a phone call, I would leave, cry for 10 minutes, pull up my socks and come back in swinging again,” Hinds explained. “There were about 30 ‘No’s’ and then I gave up. I decided the only one who was going to help me was myself.”
Hinds explained that a year ago her son had 20/20 vision but one day as they were out, she noticed him walking into oncoming traffic, which is what spurred her to make an appointment to get his vision checked.
She was informed that the situation was far more serious than she could have imagined and he was scheduled to see one of the two ophthalmologists in Calgary. That was where she discovered that her young son had a rare, degenerative eye disease called Keratoconus.
According to Hinds, the disease is characterized by the slow deformation of the cornea to where the curvature resembles a football. As the disease is progressive, there is a very limited time frame to undergo treatment.
There are only a couple of treatments currently available for Keratoconus: a corneal transplant where the patient waits until their sight deteriorates to the point of being declared blind, and the treatment which Hind’s son received — cross-linking.
The procedure involves the outer layer of the eye being removed and the cornea being scored, explained Hinds. Riboflavin drops and UV light are used to help re-knit the fibers so that the cornea can begin to regain its old shape.
With this treatment being fairly new in Canada, it is considered experimental and is not covered by Alberta Health Care, putting an enormous amount of strain on Hinds to raise the $2,400 to cover the procedure, on her own.
“There is a very fine window to do this procedure,” she explained. “Your normal eye curvature is 450 microns, [my son’s] had dropped down to 408. Once it hits 400 microns the procedure is not possible.”
With only 10 days to raise the funds, Hinds turned to Mount Royal’s Peer Support Centre and was advised by the centre’s coordinator Kelly Nixon, to participate in their holiday fundraising initiative.
On the verge of desperation, Hinds filled out a wish card and hung it on the Season of Caring’s Wish Tree. According to Nixon, about 140 individuals participated and had their wishes come true. She added that the majority of people who participate are students with families.
“Traditionally by December, students are out of student loan, Christmas is coming up, and so even if you have a job there are a lot of extra expenses,” Nixon explained. “It’s a high-need period.”
In an impressive timeframe of three days, Peer Support managed to raise approximately $2,300 for Hind’s cause. Donations came from a culmination of student alumni, students, faculty and staff.
“To be honest, I just always knew we would do it,” Nixon added. “I had complete faith in the community.”
She noted that Hinds has given so much to the public, as a Peer Support volunteer herself, despite being a full-time student, working and having a family.
Through this experience, Hinds said she realized, “we’re a strong community.”
Nixon agreed mentioning, “Just how amazing our community can be just by individuals choosing to be involved.”
She added that there are so many services on campus to help students both academically and non-academically like Peer Support, as well as opportunities for students to play a greater role in the community.
Hinds shared her gratitude for the help she received from Peer Support and all those who donated, explaining that one cannot always plan things, but that it is nice to know there is a support system in place to help.
“Thank you. You gave [my son] his sight but you also gave him his future back,” Hinds said as a message to the campus community.
Hinds described her son as extremely intelligent, graduating from high school at just 16 years of age, excited about attending university to study business and computing. She adds that he is charismatic, active, and a comedian. She explained that his brothers describe him as the ‘glue’ of the family.
With her son’s left eye saved, thanks to the operation on Dec. 5, Hinds is now working to raise more funds to save what is left of his right eye and to provide him with specialized contacts and glasses.