As a parent, one aims to do everything they can for their children, no matter how big a task may be. While raising their little ones, parents become problem-solvers, superheroes, and — in one case — ocularists. After watching his child suffer through a traumatic ordeal, this dad built his daughter a prosthetic eye and taught himself how to do it by watching YouTube videos — proving parents really are capable of anything when it comes to their kids.
Dwayne Collins and his wife Ashleigh of Taranaki, New Zealand were blessed with an easy pregnancy and a beautiful daughter named Liberty. But despite numerous scans showing no complications or causes for concern, Liberty was diagnosed with a rare eye condition called Bilateral Microphthalmia when she was just 1 week old. Collins explained in a Google blog post that because the condition causes one eye to be substantially smaller than the other, there was a need for prosthetics:
She needed a prosthetic eye to assist with facial growth, which meant we needed to find an ocularist, someone who specializes in the crafting and fitting of prosthetic eyes. What ensued was two years of ups and downs for Liberty and eventual hopelessness for us, as the eyes Liberty got after the first year weren’t fitting properly, and caused her extreme pain.
Following one particularly painful appointment and a tearful, silent four-hour-long drive home, Collins decided that he was never putting Liberty through that sort of torture again. Despite his lack of experience in the field of ocular prosthetics — he was an oil rig worker at the time — he was going to take matters into his own hands. He explained in the blog post:
That night, I started searching on Google for tools and supplies I would need, and videos from people in the field to study. Eventually I found the most useful tool in my training — YouTube — and a video posted by John Pacey-Lowrie, a renowned ocularist from the U.K. He had posted a couple of clips from his clinic detailing his unique method of eye-making, which borrowed techniques dentists use to make prosthetic teeth.
Collins goes on to explain how Pacey-Lowrie used YouTube to share his skills and attract more talent to the ocularist field. It was these videos that led Collins to hone his own skills and create a functioning final product, writing:
Late one night, I walked in from the garage and presented Ashleigh with “the eye,” the best one I’d made a year of attempting John’s technique. Ashleigh was my only quality control at the time, and she examined the eye closely before finally giving me the green light to try it on Liberty the next day.
"The eye" not only fit Liberty like the proverbial glove, but it looked great, too. Suffice it to say that success was an encouragement to continue learning. Following his YouTube tutelage, Collins apprenticed under Pacey-Lowrie in the United Kingdom, further expanding his knowledge base and experience. Fast forward to today, Liberty has a beautiful, functional eye and her parents have their own practice.
Through the course of his daughter's diagnosis and treatment, and a lot of YouTube videos, Collins found his dream. Today, he and his wife are using that dream and all that they've learned to help other families like theirs. Their clinic, Oculus Prosthetics, treats both young children and adults with Liberty’s condition, as well as those with retinoblastoma and other eye traumas. Ashleigh explained in their video that first and foremost, they want to help people:
It's hard enough being a parent, let alone having the unknowns. We just feel like we can make it a little bit easier. People come first. That's how we're going to do it differently.
Along with treating patients and providing comfort to their families, Collins shares his knowledge where he first found it: on YouTube, and people have certainly taken to his story. One commenter on their video wrote, "This is one of the coolest things I've ever watched. An absolutely amazing person and an incredible dad." Another said, " ... This is a beautiful story where one father shares the love he has for his daughter with others. Technology is amazing."
The story of the Collins family is not only a poignant example of the power of available information; it's also a powerful testament to the determination of a parent to provide comfort and security for their children.
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