A baby’s “beautiful big blue eyes” which were complimented by everyone – turned out to be a symptom of a condition causing blindness.
Louise Bice, 34, was stunned when her daughter, Aretria, was born with big blue eyes – a trait nobody else in the family had.
Her “beautiful” eyes would see the tot complimented “six or seven times every day” by strangers – which Louise loved.
But at six months old, in May 2023, one of Aretria’s baby blue eyes turned “milky” and any light caused the tot to scream in pain.
Louise and her partner, Connor Bice, 29, a chartered accountant, thought their youngest daughter might have hit her eye with a toy.
But the family were told Aretria – now 10 months old – had a severe case of bilateral congenital glaucoma, a genetic abnormality which saw extreme and growing pressure on the optic nerve.
Her much-loved big eyes actually required urgent surgery.
Tiny Aretria had a four-hour operation at Birmingham Children’s Hospital in June to relieve the pressure – but follow-up tests showed it had failed.
She had a second surgery in August and her parents are awaiting the results – although the tot has lost almost 100 per cent of her vision in one eye already.
Mum Louise wants to warn other parents to look for the symptoms – and to not assume big eyes are “beautiful” when they could be a sign of something more serious.
Louise, a stay-at-home mum, from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, said: “I never expected Ari’s big, beautiful eyes to be a bad thing.
“Suddenly one day her eye clouded over – one minute it was fine and 15 minutes later it was completely changed.
“Specialists had to do horrific tests on her and I learned she had already lost some vision in both eyes.
“After two surgeries we still don’t know what will happen – she already has just five per cent vision left in her right eye.
“She’s in so much pain and I don’t know if she can cope with another surgery.
“I just think if we had managed to get this diagnosed before the pressure got out of control, she might not now be blind in one eye.
“If someone had said it was weird, she had big eyes rather than cute we might have got it checked – but none of us knew it was even a red flag.”
After Aretria was born on October 20, 2022, her big eyes became a source of many compliments from friends and family.
Her parents even lovingly likened their little one to a cartoon bug, thinking nothing of it.
Even doctors and health visitors thought they were sweet – and nobody mentioned any risks.
But on May 20, Louise popped to the shop and when she returned 15 minutes later one of her daughter’s eyes was clouded.
Louise said: “Connor sent me a picture that morning of the two of them together while I was out and her eyes were fine.
“When I got back her right eye had clouded over.
“I hadn’t even got through the door when I said ‘we need to take her to A&E right now’.”
They went to their local hospital, King’s Mill, Mansfield, then were sent to Chesterfield Royal Hospital, Derbyshire, where doctors identified the high pressure but couldn’t work out why it was happening.
They were then booked in to see specialists at Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham, two days later on May 22.
Aretria’s condition was finally diagnosed – as bilateral congenital glaucoma – and even the specialists said they’d only seen a handful of cases.
Medics explained the little girl needed surgery but warned even then, she’d be left with little vision in her worst eye because the damage had already been done.
Louise said: “Doctors said she had been exposed to high eye pressure from birth because her fluid drainage system didn’t form properly in her eye when she was still in the womb.”
A surgery was scheduled at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, West Midlands, for June 13 which saw the tot go under the knife.
The four-hour procedure was followed by a month of eye drops six times a day as well as having protective eye shields taped onto her face for a week.
Louise said: “We didn’t get any sleep for about a week after and hoped that would be the last of it.
“But two weeks later when we went back for her post-op, the pressure readings were even higher than before.
“The operation had failed – and she would need more surgery.”
A second operation was done on August 18 – and it was again followed by a gruelling recovery for the tot, who couldn’t understand why any of it was happening.
They’re still waiting for official results, but signs so far suggest the surgery may have been unsuccessful for a second time.
Louise said if that’s the case, medics will move on to a different kind of surgery to release the pressure involving drainage tubes or valves.
She fears the tot “might not cope with another surgery” – but they may not have a choice.
While Aretria’s vision is virtually gone in her right eye, her left eye is compensating – although Louise and Connor fear the vision will worsen in her good eye too.
Louise wants to warn parents to look out for the symptoms – even if they might not seem sinister.
She said: “Before, she used to get compliments about her eyes six or seven times a day.
“Now I just feel really awkward when people say it.
“Aesthetically it might be, but having these big, beautiful eyes isn’t always a good thing.
“If we knew that before, she might not be blind in her right eye now.”