On the day before Thanksgiving, StyleBlueprint posted a collaborative post, with all city editors in an individual picture collage. I took a picture with my new nephew, three-month old Richard.
The picture was taken by my brother with his iPhone 4 and it was taken with a flash. There were no overhead lights, but I was seated next to a lamp. I noticed the white flash on Richard’s eye and thought nothing of it.
Thanksgiving Day, I wake up to this email in my inbox.
This is a very random email but I felt like I needed to send it. I’m friends with Lindsey Hedgepeth from Memphis. I read the email showing pictures of all the StyleBlueprint staff. The picture of you and your nephew was very cute. Such a cute little guy.
The reason I am writing is the white spot that appears in the photo in your nephew’s eye. It may be absolutely nothing, but a white reflex instead of a red reflex can mean that there is something going on with the eye. I’m not trying to be an alarmist but I would want to know if it was my child. I actually forwarded the blog to a friend who is a nurse practitioner at St Jude (and who’s husband is a renowned oncologist there). They looked at it and even had one of the pediatric eye doctors take a look. They thought it definitely warranted a check by a pediatric ophthalmologist just to be on the safe side.
I really hate to be one to spread worry. Especially hate to send this right at the holiday and to make you be the one to share with the parents.
My friends said they would be happy to help in any way they can. They would be happy to direct the parents in the right direction.
I apologize for causing any worry and hope all is okay.
My blood ran cold.
When I got to the paragraph where she talked about forwarding the email to her friend, the pediatric opthamologist AT ST. JUDE, I started to feel nauseous. Then the introduction of the email address of the nurse practitioner. This was serious. What made it even more serious is that she sent this email on Thanksgiving. That is how alarmed she was. It couldn’t wait another day.
I googled the condition, which is known as Retinoblastoma, all the while comparing Richard’s eye with the other eyes. Retinoblastoma is cancer of the retina and it is rapid-spreading. According to Wikipedia, most children are diagnosed before the age of five years old….with the average age at diagnosis being 9 months.
I marinated on the email for a couple of hours. My sister-in-law Georgia, Baby Richard’s mother, was hosting a Thanksgiving lunch for both her family and mine at noon. She has three kids under six, and I didn’t need to be introducing this into the mix. I told my husband and mother right before we left to go to their house. They agreed that we needed to tell Georgia right away. I waited until after our meal, when we were doing dishes. The look on her face was sheer panic. I showed her the picture and the email. She spent the rest of the afternoon looking through all her other pictures. None showed a white spot. That was encouraging.
On Friday, I received a call from Liza from StyleBlueprint Nashville. She had also received an email alerting her to the white reflection on Richard’s eye. Both of us agreed we had never heard of this condition before this picture came out.
Georgia took Richard to his regular pediatrician the next day, Friday. The pediatrician did a basic retina test where she turned off the lights, looked into the eye and the retina reflected red. This was a normal outcome. For safety measures, she referred Georgia to an ophthamologist, Dr. Mazow.
She went the following Tuesday after Thanksgiving to see Dr. Mazow. He dilated Richard’s eye and looked at every corner and he didn’t see anything. Two other doctors were present at the appointment. Both examined Richard’s eye and saw nothing.
They asked her to come back to see another retina specialist, Dr Simonson. A week later, Georgia met with him. He dilated his eye again, looked in every corner and didn’t find anything.
For most of these doctors, the general rule of thumb is that pictures don’t lie. Actually, Dr. Mazow’s hobby is photography. In this case, they believe that the white spot is actually a reflection, possibly from the glare of my watch or just a bad glare from the camera. However, they still don’t know what caused it.
I’m not writing this story to have you running to your pictures and checking each one for the white reflection. Just tuck it back in your brain as something to notice. It is not anything that I or anyone of my family or friends had ever heard of in our lifetimes, and yet it is such a serious condition.
Let me express my gratitude and our family’s to the community of StyleBlueprint readers. It couldn’t have been an easy email to send, but I’m incredibly grateful to Linda for reaching out to me, and incredibly grateful that our readers are such compassionate, supportive individuals.
As the picture indicates below, we thank you.