In March 2015, checking my Facebook page, I saw a photo of a beautiful baby girl: she was from Constanta, Romania, but she was blind. She had developed Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a progressive blindness of some premature infants that can be reversed by surgery if treated early enough.
Ironically, 25 years ago we brought Victoria, an orphan also from Constanta, to Boston for surgery to restore her vision. Victoria went on to become a medical doctor in Romania. (Read about Victoria here in her own words.) I immediately contacted Victoria to reach out in Romanian to the family of Baby Maria.
I learned that her only hope was delicate surgery with Dr. Antonio Capone Jr. and his team in Michigan. But as I probed deeper, I learned than in 4 days Dr. Capone would be holding a screening clinic in Rome, Italy. So after hasty scramble to obtain tickets and visas, Dan Rosca, our Romanian coordinator, accompanied Maria and her mom to Rome.Dr. Capone examined Baby Maria and felt there still might be time for surgery to help.
So three weeks later we had visas, funding, and tickets, and Maria underwent the first of a series of operations at The William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI, which are gradually restoring some vision.The Beaumont hospital staff and physicians have been exceptionally generous, kind, and outgoing to Maria, her mother, and to her Romanian ophthalmologist, Dr. Cristina Nitulescu. Their work led to press coverage at Beaumont Hospital and in the Detroit News.
This turned out to be the inauguration of a new series of trans-Atlantic medical projects to help needy children. Subsequently we sent another Romanian child to Royal Oak for ROP surgery. Little Denis, a 2 year old from Botosani had surgery on his right eye with excellent outcome and prognosis. His experience makes just one more reason to create a competent network of specialists in Romania that would be able to approach these cases and save babies from blindness.