Christian was just 4 when surgery to remove a complex brain tumor resulted in total vision loss. While he has adapted well both socially and academically, he continues to face challenges in a world built for sighted people. Some of his biggest challenges are not being able to read books, homework, menus or signs without having them translated into Braille, a process that can take months.
Christian’s mom, Brenda, knew there had to be options. She continues to hold out hope that, one day, a medical breakthrough will restore Christian’s vision. And if that ever happens, she wants to know about it right away. That’s why it was important to her for Christian to continue seeing an ophthalmologist.
“The first two ophthalmologists we went to were like, ‘What do you want me to do for him? He can’t see,’” Brenda says. “But Dr. Rama was different. She said, ‘Yes, he can’t see, but … .’ And that ‘but’ is all we needed to hear. That’s when we knew we had found the right eye doctor.”
The power of technology
Aparna Ramasubramanian, MD, aka Dr. Rama, told Christian and his family about the OrCam MyEye 2, a device that could interpret written text and read it aloud to Christian so he wouldn’t have to rely on Braille, which isn’t always available. Christian was interested, but the OrCam came with a steep price tag: $5,000.
Dr. Rama and Christian’s oncologist, Lindsey M. Hoffman, DO, didn’t want cost to stand in the way of him getting the assistance he deserved. So they applied for and received a grant to pay for the device, and Christian received his OrCam, opening up a whole new world for him.
From diagnosis to honor roll
Christian is still learning how to use all of the device’s capabilities, which include facial recognition to help him know who’s in a room with him and the ability to do schoolwork and read books without waiting for them to be translated.
“The OrCam software self-updates,” says Brenda, “meaning it will continue to serve Christian for years to come—maybe even his whole life.”
“Now, we can go to the library and pick out any book to read,” she adds. “And this past year, Christian made honor roll all four quarters.”
Dr. Rama says she has already identified about 20 other patients who would benefit from having an OrCam. “The technology is incredible,” she says. “We’re just hoping to secure the funding.”