“I kinda wanna see her blue eyes. Wow they’re big up close, really, really big. Wow they’re bluer than I imagined.”
Kaitlyn has just put her favorite toy Icy on what looks like a closed laptop in front of her. It’s actually a pad that has a camera directly above it. The camera is attached by an arm to a computer screen that magnifies Icy so Kaitlyn can see her clearly. The machine is called a Closed Circuit TV and its Kaitlyn’s to take home but as her doctor, Bhavani Iyer explains she didn’t know that until today.
“It is A. I can see the smile on her face already so I guess the secret is out. It is a surprise gift for Kaitlyn.”
It wasn’t a surprise for her mom Nicole Honeycutt. She got the phone call about a week ago telling her that Kaitlyn would be receiving something that would usually retail between 2,400 and 5,000 dollars completely free of charge.
“Beyond excited, ecstatic. It’s gonna open up a whole new world. She’s going to be able to see.”
Kaitlyn was born a premature twin weighing in at just over a pound. Sadly the other twin didn’t make it and Kaitlyn was left with a condition known as retinopathy of prematurity.
“Her retina started detaching when she was in the NICU. We weren’t promised anything from the beginning and look what I have, a thriving 7-year old girl.”
Dr. Helen Mintz-Hittner is a physician at UT Health Science Center and has been caring for Kaitlyn since the very beginning. Her condition is not rare. Dr. Mintz-Hittner says it’s the most common cause of blindness in the United States today. The eye starts developing at 3 months after conception and doesn’t stop until we’re born. For premature babies this development is disrupted and stops the eye vessels from growing or causes them to grow abnormally, which can lead to complete retinal detachment. One of the treatments for this condition is laser therapy but in Kaitlyn’s case the outcome wasn’t great. So Dr. Mintz-Hittner is as aware as Kaitlyn’s mum how much of a difference the gift she’s receiving will make.
Mom Nicole Honeycutt, UT Health Science physician Dr. Bhuvani Iyer showing 7-year old Kaitlyn Brown how to use CCTV
“This is going to be a big help to her to actually read and start to advance more rapidly in her learning than she’s been able to do with the magnifiers to date. She’s ready to take off I think now.”
It will take a while for Kaitlyn to get used to using this new machine. As she sits in front of it she is trying to look directly at the task Dr. Iyer has given her instead of looking at the magnified version on the screen in front of her.
Dr. Bhuvani Iyer: “I want you to look up at the screen while you do that ok?
Kaitlyn Brown: “I can’t believe everything makes it look bigger. ”
This is the second year that UT Health and Science Center and Sight Savers have awarded a CCTV to a patient. Sight Savers is a non-profit that provides free vision care for economically disadvantaged children.