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James Lumasag is comforted by his mother before his operation at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai.
Stephen Lock
James Lumasag is comforted by his mother before his operation at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai.

Help for the boy who can't cry

A simple operation has eased, at least for now, the suffering of seven-year-old James Lumasag.

A simple operation has eased, at least for now, the suffering of seven-year-old James Lumasag, who at age two was stricken with a rare disease that damaged his eyes and left him unable to cry. After The National publicised James's case in early June, doctors at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai volunteered their help. "We found there were a lot of aberrant eyelashes that instead of turning outward were turning into the eyeball, causing a lot of problems with his eyes," said Dr Andrea Sciscio, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields, where James underwent surgery.

"We removed his eyelashes so they don't keep damaging his eye. We'll reassess him in two or three months." Merlyn Lumasag believes that her son developed toxic epidermal neurolysis, which has a mortality rate of 30-40 per cent, as an allergic reaction to an antibiotic that was prescribed in the Philippines for a cough and fever. James's tear ducts failed, and, without lubrication, his eyes fused shut. Doctors reversed the fusing, but James's eyes remain sensitive to light and are often swollen.

The eyelash procedure should significantly relieve the pain but does not repair the eye damage, doctors said. "The more serious problem was the fact that the corneas have formed a scarred area. Corneas are fully transparent, like a piece of glass, but the lower third were full of scourings; it was a whitish area." James has been viewing life as if through a pair of scratched sunglasses. The doctors can do nothing to restore function to the tear ducts but have put James on a regimen of eye drops to moisten his eyes and prevent further damage.

"The poor boy is having a hard time. Hopefully we've done some good. We also know there are a lot of things we can do to help him," Dr Sciscio said. "We are not at the end of the road. I am quite hopeful." amcmeans@thenational.ae

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