DUBAI // An anonymous donor paid for the eye surgery needed to help save the vision of one of the country’s smallest surviving premature babies.
Nicholas Sacramento required laser eye surgery because the blood vessels in his eyes had not developed after he was born last October at 23 weeks old, weighing 530 grams.
His family, however, was struggling with debt from his 120-day stay in neonatal intensive care and the surgeries he required.
But the community stepped in to help Nicholas. Residents organised garage sales, collection drives and a concert to raise funds, while parents called the Sacramentos to offer advice.
Others donated amounts of Dh100 to Dh100,000 to help with Nicholas’s recovery.
“We have tried to find out who paid for the laser treatment, to thank him or her,” said Filipino Christopher Sacramento, Nicholas’s father.
“We are really grateful for this gesture and for all the support we have had. It was such a surprise to go to the hospital to settle the bill and find the payment had already been done.
“It has been a blessing.”
Doctors performed an hour-long eye surgery for Nicholas last week, and he is so far fine and “has responded well”, said Dr Prasan Rao, specialist ophthalmologist at Medcare Eye Centre, who has treated the boy since birth.
“We will examine the child in the follow-up to see if the vessels are growing and how the eye is responding to the laser treatment,” Dr Rao said.
Micro-premature babies like Nicholas weigh less than 900 grams at birth and are born before 26 weeks of gestation. Pre-term birth complications are the leading cause of death among children younger than five, according to the World Health Organisation.
Now five months old, Nicholas weighs 2.5 kilograms and still requires weekly monitoring. He will also need a hernia operation next month.
Bank employee Maria Dianne Pan and 10 colleagues and friends collected money for the Sacramentos.
“These are not riches, but we hope the parents can use our collection in any way they can,” said Ms Pan, who met the Sacramento family briefly during a short break from work.
“When I saw the baby, I just wanted to take his pain away. I tried not to cry, but when I turned away my tears flowed.
“I asked the baby to be strong and to fight for his life. I’m also asking God to grant him the chance to live a full life.”
Ms Pan had delivered early herself, and her daughter lived in an incubator for two months.
“My baby was born premature, 15 days before Nicholas, on October 19 last year,” Ms Pan said.
“She is a special gift to my family and is doing fine now, so I want Nicholas also to have a chance.”
One Dubai resident held a garage sale in his villa for baby Nicholas, and gave the proceeds – along with a pushchair, car seat and baby chair – to the Sacramentos.
The family were touched by the support they received from the UAE community and happy to report good progress with their son’s health.
“His eyes are wide open after the eye treatment,” Mr Sacramento said. “Everything seems to be going well. Nicholas looks straight at us, as if to say, ‘So, this is the voice I’ve been hearing’.”