It takes a team to change a life

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Brazilian girl, 2, can see after surgery at Bascom Institute in Miami

After having several unsuccessful surgeries in her home country, Brazilian girl Nicolly Pereira, 2, now can see thanks to procedure in Miami.
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After having several unsuccessful surgeries in her home country, Brazilian girl Nicolly Pereira, 2, now can see thanks to procedure in Miami.

We love medical miracles. They save lives, or transform them, or both. The latest miracle, at Miami’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, is just the most recent to be pulled off by members of Miami’s stellar medical community.

Surgeons there didn’t restore, they gave sight and hearing to a Brazilian toddler, for which they deserve a thunderous and sustained standing O.

The patient was 2-year-old Nicolly Pereira. Pediatric glaucoma kept her in pitch darkness, and an undetected blockage of fluid kept her in a world of silence. In Brazil, Nicolly underwent seven unsuccessful surgeries.

The toddler only knew the world through touch. Local surgeons and residents in Miami-Dade changed all that.

“My daughter is free now. She now shines more than before. She has now become a reference for people who didn’t believe in miracles,” Nicolly’s mother, Daiana Pereira, 26, recently told reporters at Bascom Palmer, part of UHealth-University of Miami Health System. Indeed.

Ms. Pereira is just one of the miracle-performing angels in this story.

It all began when she posted about her daughter’s plight on Facebook. What she wrote went viral — as more than 30,000 people began following Nicolly’s hope to one day see.

Eventually, a Miami resident who saw the post contacted the Jackson Health Foundation’s International Kids Fund, which partnered with the local Kevin Garcia Foundation. They raised more than $17,000 to pay for Nicolly’s surgeries. Another miracle.

Alana Grajewski, director of the institute’s pediatric glaucoma center, performed surgery in March and was able to reduce pressure on the toddler’s eyes, allowing her to see.

Like a dramatic scene from a movie, Nicolly’s eyes were wrapped in patches and bandages after surgery.

Although only 2, Nicolly knew something had changed, her mother said. And just like a movie — with a happy ending, of course — when the patches were removed, her face lit up as she saw her mother’s face for the first time.

But there was more. Ms. Pereira believed her child was also deaf and developmentally disabled since she didn’t talk. But after being examined by a pediatric ear, nose and throat doctor at UHealth, he discovered the fluid buildup in her inner ears. She could hear after a 30-minute procedure.

Nicolly is a new child. Her sight is still changing as her eyes heal from the surgery. She will return to Bascom Palmer in a year for a checkup.

Then there’s this: Doctors at Bascom plan to train eye doctors in Brazil to recognize the signs of glaucoma in other children like Nicolly and treat it early to prevent the loss of sight.

Getting Nicolly to Miami was a community effort. Local residents paid for the family’s housing; companies such as Publix pitched in, too; school children donated pennies; other compassionate folks helped purchase the airline tickets.

The parents of the late Kevin Garcia, killed in a car accident at 17 in 2008,named their foundation after him. They found comfort in transforming the life of another child.

“I see my son’s light in her eyes,” said Kevin’s mother, Maria Fiallo.

Kudos to all local surgeons, medical personnel, residents and companies who gave their all to make this made-in-Miami miracle happen.