Brave baby AJ undergoes sight-saving operation at age of just nine months
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Cape Town - ERICA Croxford is happy to report that the pressure in her baby boy’s eye has stabilised.
It’s been a long road for Croxford, whose son Anthony – or AJ - was diagnosed with a rare skin condition, juvenile xanthogranuloma, which resulted in a growth developing inside his left eye.
Croxford was told AJ needed sight-saving surgery at the age of just nine months.
According to Dr Hamzah Mustak, an ocular oncology and oculoplastics specialist practising at UCT Private Academic Hospital, the condition most often presents itself as a benign lump or bump on the skin and is not usually cause for concern.
However, more than one lesion on the skin can also be accompanied by a lesion in the eye, which can be serious.
In AJ’s case, it had resulted in a growth causing glaucoma, which led to severe pressure in the eye, that could have resulted in loss of sight or even loss of the eye itself.
“When AJ came to us in June this year, we immediately began to prepare for a highly specialised procedure using brachytherapy, most often used to treat certain types of cancer. This is a form of internal radiation therapy, whereby the radiation is temporarily implanted or placed at the affected area. While the growth in AJ’s eye was not cancerous, it needed to be eradicated to prevent the eventual loss of his eye,” said Dr Mustak.
“It took around 40 minutes to perform the procedure on AJ, after which the implant remained inside his eye socket for 17 hours to allow the radiation to be delivered to the tumour, before being removed again. The success rate for brachytherapy in the eye is over 90% so we are hopeful that the tumour will not grow back and that AJ will have vision in that eye again.”
Croxford said that she felt “a strong mother’s instinct” about a small mark she noticed shortly after the birth of her son.
“From the time AJ was just two days old I was aware of this mark on his cheek and I had a feeling there was something not quite right about it.
“The doctors I spoke to couldn’t tell me what it was but did not seem too concerned, so I tried to put it out of my mind,” she said.
“Then in December 2020 I noticed another mark on AJ’s armpit but little did we know that this was juvenile xanthogranuloma and that more than one skin lesion could indicate another in his eye.
“Shortly after that, around New Year, he woke up one morning with a terribly swollen, milky eye and no movement in the pupil. I rushed him to the doctor and that is when the journey really began. At the time he was just four months old.”
Just over three weeks have passed since AJ’s brachytherapy and Croxford has taken him for two pressure check-ups back home in KwaZulu-Natal.
“It’s not yet the end of the road, as AJ will be scheduled for cataract surgery at some point in the near future.
“However, the outlook is for now very positive, thanks to the work of the incredible Dr Mustak, his colleagues and the amazing team at UCT Private Academic Hospital. You guys are truly special,” Croxford said.