UHealth Doctors Honored by County Commissioner for Helping Blind and Deaf Brazilian Toddler

Doctors with UHealth-the University of Miami Health System and community members who worked together to restore sight and hearing to a Brazilian toddler were honored by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Rebeca Sosa. The commissioner and her staff paid a special visit to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, where 2-year-old Nicolly Pereira received life-changing surgery for pediatric glaucoma after seven unsuccessful surgeries in Brazil.

Nicolly was diagnosed with pediatric glaucoma, which left her unable to see or detect any light at all. Alana Grajewski, M.D., Director of the Samuel and Ethel Balkan International Pediatric Glaucoma Center at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, performed the three-hour surgery that restored Nicolly’s sight. Nicolly was also deemed deaf since birth, but further examination by Ramzi Younis, M.D., professor and Chief of Pediatric Otolaryngology at UHealth, identified a blockage of fluid in her inner ears. He performed a 30-minute surgery to drain the fluid buildup and restore hearing.

“That moment when that little girl was able to see her mother and was able to hear the first words of the mom, words can’t express,” Sosa said during her June 29 visit. “You all have to be feeling the greatest satisfaction.”

Nicolly’s story gained attention in Brazil when her mother, Daiana Pereira, wrote about it on Facebook, where she quickly amassed more than 30,000 followers. One follower in Miami contacted the Jackson Health Foundation’s International Kids Fund, also called Wonderfund, which teamed up with Carlos and Maria Fiallo, founders of the Kevin Garcia Foundation named in honor of the 17-year-old son they lost in a car accident in 2008, to raise more than $17,000 to pay for Nicolly’s surgery. The family received additional support from community members and local organizations to make the trip to Miami.

The story made international headlines and raised awareness for pediatric glaucoma, a blinding condition that often goes overlooked in children.

Recognizing the joint community effort, Sosa presented certificates of appreciation to the doctors, representatives from Wonderfund, Carlos and Maria Fiallo and Carolina La Mendola Diago, who coordinated Nicolly’s visit through Wonderfund and her organization Mision La Mascota. Sosa also encouraged the team to never stop helping those in need.

“The more you do, the more satisfaction and the more difference you are going to make in the world,” said Sosa. “On behalf of every resident, thank you and keep up the good work.”

Grajewski, who was previously recognized by the City of Miami, thanked Sosa and said that Nicolly was making great progress.

“Being recognized by our county officials is such a great honor and helps spread awareness for pediatric glaucoma within our local community,” said Grajewski, who has led a decades-long international effort to eradicate pediatric glaucoma.

She recently founded the Samuel and Ethel Balkan International Pediatric Glaucoma Center at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which will provide necessary training to ophthalmologists worldwide as a means to effectively diagnose and treat pediatric glaucoma cases. The first-of-its-kind center will also offer genetic research and a multi-disciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating pediatric glaucoma.

Younis expressed his gratitude for the recognition and being a part of the tremendous team effort.

“It’s just like the pieces of a puzzle; it’s teamwork,” he said. “Eventually if we work together with the same objective toward patient care, excellence of care, making a difference and transforming lives, this is what it’s all about, and this is what we strive to do every day.”

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