When Aliyah Arambul took off her eye patch for the last time, she knew exactly how long she had worn it — 2,646 hours.
It was written on the back of the 5-year-old Pasco girl’s Wonder Woman cape.
“She wanted to be a superhero, and she wanted to do Wonder Woman,” said her mom, Jessie Arambul. “She likes to play pretend and dress up.”
It was the end of a journey that started two years prior. A babysitter was watching then 3-year-old Aliyah after her parents left for work.
The toddler spotted an exercise band tied onto a pole and yanked on it. She pulled just hard enough for the other end to snap off and hit her right eye.
Jessie remembers getting the call and the initial shock she had as she raced back home.
They took Aliyah to the emergency room as blood filled her eye. They were quickly brought to the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. While they were able to get rid of the excess fluid, the hit had left Aliyah’s eye damaged.
“Her lens scarred up after she got hit,” Jessie said. “It was probably a week after she was injured that I noticed her eye was a little cloudy. There was a little more each day. ... By the time we made it back it was a full-blown cataract.”
Surgery and a patch
Removing the cataract required doctors to remove the lens and put in an artificial one. Her recovery was made more difficult after the lens became clouded and needed to be replaced.
After the initial shock faded, Aliyah’s parents went through guilt because it was a preventable accident.
“It’s really hard to see your child go through any kind of pain,” she said. ‘We had to do eye drops six times a day after the surgery. ... She was super resilient. She would have her bad days where she would cry, but she was a lot more mature than I thought she would be for a 3-year-old.”
Along with the drops, she needed to wear an eye patch over her good eye for four hours a day. Doctors wanted to make sure Aliyah’s brain rebuilt the connections to her injured eye. Without doing it, she could have lost her sight in that eye.
Throughout the process, Jessie said the employees at the university hospital, including pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Lorri Wilson, helped keep Aliyah calm and were very kind.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better hospital for her to be sent to,” she said.
When the beginning of the new year rolled around, Aliyah got to wear the patch for less time each day. At first, it was an hour, and it slowly decreased over time.
Wonder Woman and the final day
Jessie knew the final hour that Aliyah needed to wear the patch was approaching, so she asked her daughter what she wanted to wear for her final appointment with the doctor.
Aliyah — a fan of superheroes and pink — decided she wanted to combine her favorite color and one of her favorite characters. With some help, Jessie put together a pink costume and got Labor of Love Custom designs by Mela to make the cape.
In advance of her appointment, Jessie arranged a series of photos of Aliyah taking off the patch. Then they went to the hospital and got the final approval to stop using the patch. She will need to return for followup appointments, but she is doing well.
Aliyah is just excited about being done with the treatment.
“Every morning she has woken up and said, ‘I don’t have to wear my patch today,’” Jessie said.