SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) - A nationwide program is offering free eye exams for babies between six and twelve months of age, but not that many parents are scheduling an appointment. Doctors say we get our kids immunized, we take them to the dentist but forget about their vision.
Two year old Lola Barkema was just seven months old when her mom first took her to get her eyes checked. Kelli Barkema had a feeling that something was wrong, and she was right.
"In ten minutes of dilating drops in her eye, my opthamologist was able to look in her pupil and find a huge tumor inside of it. That's when we found out that she had retinal blastoma," Barkema says.
Retinal blastoma is a rare kind of cancer that can occur in the eyes of children. Lola went through months of chemotherapy and lost vision in that left eye, but because of the early eye exam she survived.
"Had I not gone," Barkema says, "she could've died. And I hate to think that there are other moms out there who are concerned about their kids but they've had a pediatrician or a friend say, oh, don't worry, you are being neurotic."
It's not neurotic to get an early eye exam doctors say, it's smart. And there is actually a program set up to help parents. It's called the Infantsee program and it's been around several years. It means you take your six to twelve month old into any participating optometrist and the exam is free.
"Early detection and prevention is the key. We want to intervene and get that treatment in at an early age," Dr. Karri Buresh says.
It's an easy exam. Babies think it's playtime with finger puppets and bright lights. But doctors and moms like Kelli Barkema know that adding vision to your child's health checklist can prevent serious problems in the future.
"If you think about it, we use our teeth a lot, but we use our eyes a lot more I think. But it's something we don't check, we don't look at," Barkema says.
If you would like more information about the Infantsee program and how you can find a participating doctor in your area go to www.infantsee.org