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Stacy gets an eye for Christmas

By Richardson Dhalai Sunday, December 8 2013

click on pic to zoom in
Stacy Balkissoon, ten, and her mother Sandy Balkissoon, share a smile after receiving a cheque for $10,000 for the purchase of a prosthetic eye. Stacy...
Stacy Balkissoon, ten, and her mother Sandy Balkissoon, share a smile after receiving a cheque for $10,000 for the purchase of a prosthetic eye. Stacy...

Diagnosed with a rare type of eye cancer, Retinoblastoma, which forced the removal of her right eye when she was just six months old, Stacy Shelly Balkissoon, was fitted with a prosthetic eye by doctors to ensure that she was able to live her life as any normal child.

However, Balkissoon has had to endure a number of “eye fittings” as the prosthetic eye, unlike the rest of her growing body, was not subject to growth spurts and had to be replaced every two years.

And with the prosthetic eye costing anywhere between $10,000-$14,000, Ramkissoon, now 10 years old, and who was last fitted with an eye two years ago, was faced with having to live with an eye which was rapidly receding into her growing skull unless her mother could source the money needed for the purchase of a new organ..

Her hopes of a new eye appeared dim as one of her older brothers, Tony, 23, who was also diagnosed with Retinoblastoma which forced the removal of his left eye, and who also needed having replacements as he grew, didn’t have the benefit of them in a timely manner.

The delay in his parents getting him a prosthetic eye because of lack of funds caused Tony to develop a droop in his skull which resulted in him now having to always wear sunglasses in the sunlight.

Fearing the worst with her youngest child, Sandy Balkissoon approached the Cancer Society, which in turn was approached by officials of Southern Elegant Cruises, a boating company which offers cruises in the Gulf of Paria and who were looking to help with cancer victims in south Trinidad. Upon hearing Stacy’s story, the cruise company donated $10,000 to the Ramkissoon family for the purchase of a prosthetic eye which Stacy is expected to have fitted later in December.

Speaking to reporters yesterday at the handing over ceremony of the cheque to Precise Prosthetics Limited — the company that will make the eye — Stacy said she “feel good” that she would be able to soon have anew eye.

“I feel good and I just want to say thanks,” she said with a shy smile which eventually broadened when she was asked what colour she wanted her new eye to be.

“The same colour, brown,” she said. Ocularist Reyaz Khan, who had worked with Stacy since she was two years old, and who has made her other prosthetic eyes, said the money was a “very huge investment for the family’s future” which would assist in Stacy’s development.

“It means that she can be fitted for a prosthetic, her facial growth will be normal, she won’t have contraction of the bones around that socket, so it means it is a life long investment for her in terms of having proper facial symmetry,” Khan said.

“There is also less chance of infection in the socket when you have a properly fitted eye. It’s a tremendous task for them to be able to afford this for her,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cruises representative, Marisa Zoe Samuels, said the organisation held its annual “Cruise for a Cure” last September and Stacy’s case, which had been referred by the Cancer Society, had touched them and a decision had been made to assist in the purchase of a prosthetic eye.

“This is an annual event and it is our way of giving back to the community,” she said, adding similar donations had also been given to three other persons including a 16-year-old Presentation College student who was recently diagnosed as having a brain tumour.

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