Giving Angel a Brighter Future

June 2016 | Patient Stories, Stories from the field

By Kate Bryant

Vice President of Development

Angel was born with congenital cataracts – one of the most easily treated causes of blindness in infants.

In 2014, SEE International and teams of volunteer SEE Docs restored sight to more than 1,400 people during 38 programs throughout Mexico. During one of these programs, Dr. James B. Conahan met a 4-year-old boy in Zihuatanejo named Angel. Angel had been born with bilateral cataracts, which continuously developed throughout his life, making it increasingly difficult for him to see as he grew older. Angel’s mother, Cecilia, knew something was wrong with her son’s eyes when he would drop his toys and have difficulty finding them.

After an initial misdiagnosis, Angel’s parents took him to a local ophthalmologist who diagnosed him with cataracts. Both of Angel’s eyes were affected, but treatment was too costly for the family, and his vision remained clouded in shadows. His school couldn’t provide him with the appropriate accommodations, so the social and playful child was forced to stay at home.

Upon meeting Angel for the first time, Dr. Conahan noticed that Angel could barely see at all. He struggled with engaging in normal childhood activities, and was unable to do the things he loved, like play soccer, ride his bike, or color. Angel’s parents were desperate to find a way to treat his cataracts, as they would permanently blind him if they were not removed soon.

By March of 2014, Dr. Conahan and SEE International had made arrangements, complete with all of the needed medical supplies, to perform Angel’s sight-saving surgery. Dr. Conahan then flew back to Ixtapa to operate on Angel and remove his cataracts. The changes in Angel’s sight were noticeable just three days after his surgery, as he was able to attend school with the ability to see the chalkboard and complete his schoolwork without the burden of visual impairments.

In 2019, Dr. Conahan traveled back to Ixtapa and met with Angel once again. With his sight restored, Angel had blossomed into a bright, happy young man, now excelling academically, playing competitive soccer with his friends, and using a computer proficiently. Angel’s mother now frequently sends him to the market to pick up groceries on his bicycle, something he would have never been able to do with his previous visual impairments. In his free time, Angel now enjoys helping his dad sell souvenirs from a little stand on the beach.

Now that he is able to see, Angel can grow up living to his full potential, without being held back from doing the things he loves. For less than $50, Angel’s life was transformed forever.

A Mother’s Love

Angel’s mother said, “every morning, he used to have to call me from his bed to help him get up, get dressed, and take him to school. But the day after, I woke up to find that he had gotten up himself, walked into my room, and was stroking my face. He could see me for the first time in his life, and he said ‘Mama! Tu eres bella!‘ (‘Mom! You’re so beautiful!’).” Thanks to the Conahans and SEE’s supporters, where there had been shadows, Angel can now see the world around him. As Angel said to his mother, it is beautiful.

Follow-Up Webinar

If you have followed Angel’s story, watch the latest update on Angel’s progress in this recorded webinar with James B. Conahan, M.D. who performed the surgery and returned to check up on Angel’s process a year later.

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