Dr. Bhavani Iyer hels Deyanira Gutierrez and others maximize their low vision.
Dr. Bhavani Iyer hels Deyanira Gutierrez and others maximize their low vision.

Bhavani Iyer, O.D., a low vision expert in the Ruiz Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, loves helping her young patients make the most of their limited vision.

With the help of a nonprofit organization called Sight Savers America, Iyer arranged for four of her grade-school patients to get high-tech magnification devices free of charge. The devices are not covered by insurance and cost around $2,500 each.

“Our emphasis is to help children succeed in school and in life by providing tools to help them achieve their goals,” said Iyer, assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual science.

Worldwide, approximately 135 million people have low vision, which means their sight problems cannot be corrected with eyeglasses, surgery or medication. Their challenge is to make the most of their residual vision.

How serious is the vision loss of Iyer’s patients? Without the magnification device, Deyanira Gutierrez, a 7-year-old second grader at Lewis Elementary School in the Houston Independent School District, has to be real close to see the face of her mother Neredia.

“She literally has to sit a foot in front of the television,” said Neredia Gutierrez, who lives in Southeast Houston.

Thanks to her brand new VFO Onyx HD Electronic Video Magnifier (EVM), Deyanira can better see words and pictures, which is translating into better grades. “The whole of last year she didn’t want to do homework because it was so hard for her,” Neredia Gutierrez said.

The donations were made possible by the Hermann Eye Fund, the Houston Delta Gamma Foundation, the Albert & Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation, and VFO.

The EVMs were presented to patients at the Dan Arnold Center for Vision Rehabilitation at the Robert Cizik Eye Clinic in Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza, where Iyer and her team also help patients with strategies such as furniture placement for coping with low vision. The presentations were made and the children trained to use the equipment on Aug. 12.

Two weeks later, follow-up calls were made to the families and Kati Moore, the manager of the Sight Savers America low vision program, was happy to report that the children were using their EVMs for a variety of activities including practicing their ABCs, reading, writing, seeing toys and watching the Family Feud.

Jeff Haddox, president and CEO of Sight Savers America, said the EVMs also facilitate greater interaction between parent and children. “They can point at a school problem and see it at the same time. This makes it easier to work on something together,” he said.