Over the years, thanks to the generosity of supporters like you, we have seen our clients go on to become scholars, professionals, musicians, sporting greats and even Olympians! I have a feeling that Jackson, one of the youngest and newest members of the Can:Do family, is another determined youngster who, with your support, will go on to achieve amazing things. At 11 months old Jackson has the extremely rare congenital disorder anophthalmia, born into total darkness without even the ability to perceive light. Strength and determination shine through this little boy, but he needs your help to get the best start in life and overcome the challenges he will face.
“My pregnancy with Jackson was not much different to that of his big sister, Zoe. I nearly didn’t make it into the hospital, Jackson wanted out, and was ready to see the world! But when I held my son for the first time, I knew something just wasn’t right… When I gave birth to Zoe, she opened her little eyes almost as soon as she was in my arms. I said to the doctors “he has something wrong with his eyes, why aren’t they opening?” my poor baby was trying and trying to pull his eyes open but they just wouldn’t open.
At two days old Jackson began to rub his face against mine. I didn’t know at the time that what he was doing, but now I do – he was feeling his Mum.
When the doctors took Jackson away for examination I didn’t know what to think. Hours passed before the doctors finally came back. When they did told us the heartbreaking news - that they couldn’t feel any globes behind Jackson’s eyelids. This was confirmed when they lifted his tiny eyelids there were no eyes at all underneath. I was devastated, I had never heard of something like this happening before, the doctors had never seen it, and the nurses were shocked! The next few days were the hardest of my life. I couldn’t tell you how many people came in and out of my room. I didn’t even get a chance to be with my family, to process what was happening, let alone grieve.
Anophthalmia, Jackson’s condition, means the absence of both eyes. Both the globes and ocular tissues are missing from the socket. The doctors told me that there is nothing that I could have done to prevent it, and unlike many other conditions, it cannot be even detected through an ultrasound.
The first 3 months was a juggling act for Jon and I, we were taking turns at the hospital - as well as making sure Zoe was getting the love and attention she needed. Getting through that initial grief was so hard for me, it was Jon who had such a positive outlook and started researching what we could do to give Jackson the best life we can.
Our family has been so supportive, and Jon’s sister, who receives support for her child who has autism from Can:Do 4Kids, mentioned how they had helped her so much and that she was sure they could support Jackson and our family too.
“Reaching out for help was the hardest thing to do, but once we
did it felt like a weight had been lifted off our shoulders” says Jon.
From our first phone call with Can:Do 4Kids we felt like help was at hand. Jackson was just 3 months old when the Can:Do 4Kids Early Intervention Consultant first came to meet with us at home and after a few one on one sessions, we were invited to an Early Intervention group called Little Learners.
It is amazing how you just click with other people who are going through the same emotions and experiences with their child. These sessions were such a valuable support for Jon and I, we found out we were not alone. Can:Do 4Kids made this possible, we were able to meet and get to know other parents, and that has been one of the most valuable steps to getting over our grief. Zoe even gets to play with the siblings of other the children that are in Jackson’s group, it is such a great outlet for her too, she loves all the family activities that Can:Do 4Kids invite us to and always asks to go to “Jackson’s school!”.
Jackson will eventually be fitted with prosthetic eyes, but it is not a simple procedure. He will be fitted with a series of clear plastic shells called conformers, which are placed in his eye sockets to ensure his face develops properly. You would think each time Jon and I make our little boy fast for hours for another operation and hand him into someone else’s care at the hospital it would get easier. It doesn’t, it never does.
Jackson loves sitting in his car, singing, listening to stories everything and anything every other 11 month old enjoys. He is a burst of life, and surprises us every day. It is amazing how he finds special ways to interact without his sight, like smelling and touching - he uses his feet as much as he uses his hands!
Like every parent wants for their kids, Jon and I want Jackson to be happy, healthy and have every opportunity to be confident and follow his dreams. What I want most is for him to be independent. I know his big sister Zoe will be his eyes when he needs them, she asks when she can go to the playground with Jackson, although it still breaks my heart I tell her she can one day it will just be different. Our different has become our own normal with the support of Can:Do 4Kids. With their support we know that Jackson will get the best start.”
Every child deserves a chance to get the most out of life, be confident, independent and achieve amazing things. Early intervention is vital and any delay can seriously affect a child’s development. Can:Do 4Kids can’t help families like Natalie and Jon’s without your help!
Please, consider giving a gift to help more children like Jackson by donating now and know that Jackson and other kids like him are getting the best start in life that Can:Do 4Kids can give them.