For the past four years, people in the Tri-County Times area have helped with fundraising efforts to support a little Polk City girl’s dreams of vision.
Eva Allen, who is 5 now, was born with ONH - optic nerve hypoplasia, which means that her optic nerves didn’t develop in utero, leaving her vision significantly impaired. She has only been able to see shapes and very large objects out of her left eye, and she sees only light and dark out of the right eye.
Through searches on the Internet, her family found that ONH was being treated with stem cells in Thailand. As her grandmother, Coleen Deets, explains, the stem cells target her optic nerves, helping them to grow.
To get Eva to Thailand and be able to pay for the treatments, which are not covered by insurance, family and friends started the long process of fundraising. They needed to raise $50,000. Deets said they’ve had more fundraisers than she can count, and people have also donated graciously to Eva’s cause. Finally, the goal was met and the family began plans to take Eva to Thailand.
On July 5, Eva will leave Iowa with her mother, Sara, and her grandfather (Sara’s dad), Jim. They will travel to Bankok, where Eva will receive six treatments, given to her through IVs, over a three-week period.
In her five years of life, Eva has had good health and is a typical 5-year-old in every other way, her grandmother said. Over time, left untreated, her ONH was expected to never get worse and could have possibly gotten a little better. But with stem cell treatments, doctors are seeing results of vision in three to 18 months following the first treatment. “Eva starts kindergarten in the fall, so we are hopeful the process starts working right away,” Deets said.
It’s hard for a 5-year-old to understand completely the importance of the medical treatments she’s about to undergo, or all that has happened to get her there. But her grandmother said she is excited, and understands that she should have some vision after the treatments are done.
It is the family’s hope that these treatments will allow Eva - who presently has many friends in the dance classes she takes - to enjoy life even more fully by doing all the wonderful things that require vision, like watching her favorite movies.
To the many people who have donated to make these treatments possible, Deets said, “Thank you very much for all your support over these past few years. This would not be possible without your help. It’s people like you that make things wonderful.”