SEMINOLE – Jeanyth “Nicey” Richard, a 12-year-old St. Lucia girl who was declared legally blind, can see again.
In an unexpected turn of events, Richard had successful surgery Oct. 24 for a degenerative eye disease called keratoconus, said Diana Flory, who, along with her husband, Ed, had spearheaded efforts to bring the girl to the United States for treatment.
“She came through like a trooper,” Diana said in a telephone conversation.
Diana was calling from California and was expected to fly back home to Seminole with Richard and her father Friday night.
The specialist who performed the surgery was Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler of Beverly Hills, Calif. The Florys said Richard originally was expected to undergo two procedures in six months, but that will not be necessary based on the doctor’s treatment.
“It’s just overwhelming and a blessing beyond belief that this has happened, not only that it has happened that quickly … but that her vision was so bad and that this (keratoconus) had progressed so rapidly,” Ed Flory said.
The Florys also learned that an anonymous donor has funded the remainder of the costs, originally pegged at about $17,000 for both procedures.
“There have been all kinds of wonderful happenings here that have impacted this little girl,” she said.
Diana said there are no words to express the gratitude to Wachler that the Richard’s family and she felt after the procedure. She told Wachler that he gave Richard back her life.
“Nicey can see. They (the doctor’s staff) asked her what time it was and she looked at the clock – and told them,” Diana said. “They asked her if she realized that she had just read the clock, something that was totally impossible an hour before. The look on her face told us she had not even realized it. On the way back to the hotel she told us that the green light was too bright so I am sure it will take her a while to adjust to all the changes in her vision.”
Wachler pioneered the Holcomb C3-R procedure that is named after Steve Holcomb, an Olympic bobsledder who was legally blind due to keratoconus until Wachler treated him. A similar procedure was used to treat Richard along with the use of insertible contact lens.
In addition, Richard was severely nearsighted, which might require her to have a soft contact lens over the insertible lenses. Nevertheless, Wachler said there’s a 99 percent chance that she will never have to undergo a procedure again for keratoconus.
As a member of the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks Beach, Diana Flory went to St. Lucia on a mission trip in 2007 and first met Richard at a church function. She began to notice that Richard’s eyes were causing her problems around Easter 2012 as she watched the girl read her part for a program.
Diana contacted Tampa Bay Newspapers in June about her efforts to raise funds for Richard’s medical and travel expenses while she was staying with the Florys.
The Florys had a benefit concert and a garage sale to raise money for Richard’s expenses. Ed Flory said that people sent donations to them after they read about Richard’s plight in Tampa Bay Newspapers’ articles.
Richard will stay with the Florys for about another week. Television crews interviewed Richard Oct. 24, Diana said.
“Everybody kept saying what a sweet little girl she was,” Diana said. “What huge things she is going to do one day.”