Helping Dessources see

When a 6-year-old boy came from Haiti with eye problems, his doctor first had to figure why he was so sensitive to light.

Dessources Cadet showed no sign of vision problems as he chased the soccer ball across the lawn and gave it a kick.

“He’s good with anything athletic,” said his host mother, Donna DeWeerd, as she watched the 6-year-old Haitian boy grinning and playing in the front yard with her three grandchildren. “He’s kind of a natural.”

Dessources’ red sunglasses provided the only hint of eye difficulties for the little boy with the deep brown eyes. He had grown so attached to the shades that he refused to leave home or play outside without them.

Dessources, pronounced “Dezus,” left his home near the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince to come to Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in West Michigan in August as part of a mini-airlift involving three kids who needed medical care. Healing the Children’s Ohio and Michigan chapter arranged for his travel and his stay with host parents, Donna and Al DeWeerd.

Initially, doctors thought he had cataracts and needed surgery. But his ultimate diagnosis ended up being a simpler fix―although just as crucial for his quality of life.

When he arrived at the DeWeerds’ home in Hudsonville, Michigan, the DeWeerds were surprised by how well Dessources navigated their home. He didn’t seem to have difficulty seeing―either up close or at a distance. He went up and down stairs with ease.

But they did notice that bright lights bothered him.

During a trip to the Hudsonville Fair on a sunny day, the DeWeerds’ adult daughter, Kim Vredevoogd, loaned Dessources his sunglasses. He liked them so much, the family bought a pair for him.

Eye, skin issues related

When pediatric ophthalmologist Brooke Geddie, DO, gave Dessources his first eye exam, she discovered he did not have cataracts. But she, too, noticed that bright lights bothered him.

Dessources sat on Donna’s lap for the exam, shyly pointing out pictures that matched pictures on a screen. But when Dr. Geddie tried to shine a light in his eyes, he ducked and closed his eyes.

He had a very simple problem that just needed a simple eye drop, but it is amazing how life-changing that eye drop can be.

Brooke Geddie, DO
Pediatric ophthalmologist

“He’s abnormally light sensitive,” Dr. Geddie said. “Something is causing that.”

At a later appointment, she examined his eyes while he was under sedation. She found inflammation involving his corneas, the clear window of the eye. That inflammation caused Dessources’ severe light sensitivity and secondary visual impairment in brightly lit conditions.

“I can only imagine how uncomfortable that was in the sunny environment of his home country,” she said.

Noticing his skin was inflamed as well, Dr. Geddie consulted with two dermatologists, Rachel Laarman, MD, and Brian Gerondale, MD.

Together, the physicians determined Dessources had atopic dermatitis of the skin, which was related to the severe atopic keratoconjunctivitis of his eyes.

Dr. Geddie prescribed steroid and lubricating eye drops. Dessources also was given a lotion for his skin.

Both his light sensitivity and itchy skin dramatically improved.

Dr. Geddie also gave him glasses with a new prescription that better matched his nearsighted needs. To help with light sensitivity, the lens darkens in sunlight. And the frames, bendable and virtually unbreakable, are designed for an active 6-year-old.

With the glasses, Dessources has 20/20 vision, Dr. Geddie said. And relief from bright light could mean a big difference in quality of life for him.

In his seven-week stay for medical treatment, Dessources adjusted to life in Donna and Al DeWeerd’s West Michigan home.

He loved playing and swimming with their grandchildren, Ellie, 8, and 6-year-old twins, Olivia and Arie.

He had two photos showing his family back home that the DeWeerds kept on display in the kitchen. Every morning, he pointed to them, naming his father, aunt and cousins.

With no electricity at home, Dessources became fascinated with light switches at the DeWeerds’ house. He would follow his host parents around to turn out the light when they left a room.

“He likes music,” Donna said. “He has a good sense of rhythm.”

He listened to songs and then tried to pick out the tune on a musical toy with a little keyboard.

By the time Dessources returned home in early October, his skin itched less and his eyes were far less bothered by light.

Visually, Dessources was doing excellent, Dr. Geddie said. The team sent him home to Haiti with a regimen to keep his inflammation controlled.

Although he needed much simpler treatment than surgery, Dr. Geddie said working with Dessources was still very rewarding.

“He is a delightful little guy,” she said. “He had a very simple problem that just needed a simple eye drop, but it is amazing how life-changing that eye drop can be. I am happy we were able to help him.”

Learn more about eye care for children at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Read about the three children who came from Haiti for treatment.

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