Leah Renee Grace. Contributed photo.
It took Tiffany Brickey a few months to realize that her newborn daughter Leah Renee Grace wasn’t paying attention to the television, focusing on objects or reaching to pick up items.
Brickey had a feeling there might be a problem with Leah’s vision, but no health-care professional ever mentioned it.
"I kind of suspected it. I had talked to a few people, and it wasn’t adding up,” Brickey said.
On May 5, 2013, at just over 6 months old, an MRI confirmed that Leah has optic nerve hypoplasia (ONH), a congenital condition in which the optic nerve is underdeveloped, causing blindness. There is no medical or surgical treatment for ONH.
“It was random for her,” Brickey said. “There is no blindness or vision loss that runs in my or her dad’s family.”
Leah, who will turn 1 on Oct. 29, joins an estimated 30 million people worldwide who are blind, according to the World Health Organization. To raise awareness about those with blindness and vision impairment, Brickey is observing Blindness Awareness Month by wearing green. WHO figures indicate that 285 million people worldwide are estimated to be visually impaired. An estimated 19 million children are visually impaired, and 1.4 million are irreversibly blind for life.
Brickey believes Leah can distinguish between light and dark because she won’t go to sleep in her bed unless the room is dark. Leah has occupational therapy once a week and physical therapy every other week. Whether she will attend local schools or the Tennessee School for the Blind in Nashville remains to be seen.
“I hope that she has the most normal life that she can have,” Brickey said.
Brickey encourages others to wear green through the end of October, take a picture and follow her on Instagram at the tag ? @tiffany_leahgrace.