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13 January 2021
BY DYLAN DE JONG
Horsham’s Luna Aisbett was dealt a cruel hand when a congenital eye condition rendered her legally blind at just nine months of age.
The road to recovery is long and requires surgeries, specialist care, trips to Melbourne and 24-7 supervision.
But despite her condition, little Luna is a fighter.
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Her mother, Rosie Ann Dean, has been by her daughter’s side every step of the way, from Luna’s diagnosis of bilateral congenital cataracts through to treatment and navigating support services, or a lack thereof.
Ms Dean, along with juggling Luna’s care and being a mother of four, has decided to start a fundraiser to give back to an organisation close to her family’s heart.
Money raised from her ‘Open Eyes, Open Hearts’ fundraiser will go to Vision Australia, the leading national provider of blindness and low-vision services.
The not-for-profit organisation is a major participant and partner in the blindness community.
Less than a month after launching her fundraiser, more than 20 Wimmera businesses had donated raffle items to Ms Dean and her family.
“We want to spread awareness and give back. Vision Australia does so much for the blind, the vision impaired and Guide Dogs Australia,” she said.
Ms Dean said more than 20 prizes, such as a gift voucher for a professional photography shoot, gym membership and tattoo gift vouchers would be drawn in early March.
After being diagnosed in February last year, Luna underwent a lensectomy to remove her cataracts at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital in September.
Ms Dean said with her cataracts removed, Luna, now 15 months old, could not focus on anything, was severely long-sighted and had to wear contact lenses.
She said the eye condition was also likely to hinder Luna’s learning in a crucial stage of her development.
“It has affected the growth of most of her fine motor skills and socially as well,” she said.
She said she expected Luna would have to wait several years before undergoing her next major surgery, which might restore some of her vision.
“We will have to live with this until she’s about five before she can get artificial lenses put in,” she said.
“We have to wait until she’s bigger because her eyes will keep growing. If we were to do it now, we’d have to do multiple surgeries taking them in and out and getting new ones.
“And even with the artificial lenses she’ll still have to wear bifocal sunglasses on top of that.”
In addition to the surgeries, Ms Dean has had to undergo training to learn procedures required to care for Luna.
She said it was uncommon for her or her partner Damon Aisbett to leave Luna’s side because she needed constant supervision.
“I’ve got to be by her side 24-7 – she just doesn’t have that depth perception, so I have to be with her all the time,” she said.
“And it is impossible to take her to childcare with the assistance she needs as no one is trained to care for her.”
Ms Dean is also required to drive to Melbourne on a regular basis to take Luna to her doctor’s appointments.
She also applied for a carer support payment, however, her application was rejected.
“Trying to find the support was a bit of an eye opener to see how little there is out there from Services Australia,” she said.
“I’ve been knocked back for a carers allowance or any help from them. I’m just meant to go out and work, but I can’t because I’m Luna’s eyes.
“According to Services Australia and Centrelink she’s just like any other baby and doesn’t need any extra care even though she is legally blind.
“That’s why I got onto Vision Australia – it’s been a personal relationship where I can call and they point me in the right direction.”
Facing the unknown
Ms Dean said although every day was a major challenge, she found hope with support from her friends, family and the Horsham community.
“I was scared and worried. It was hard to wrap my head around the diagnosis. I just thought, how I am going to do this?” she said.
“We weren’t aware of how much the eye can impact the development of our baby – it’s been daunting, we’re facing the unknown. My boys Jack, Alex and Beau have been really good – they’ve been super caring and really helpful.
“I don’t get that break, so the older boys have been helping out, they watch her if I need to pop out and do the laundry or small tasks. They’ve been really supportive and even researched things themselves about how to help her.”
Ms Dean said the fundraiser would allow her and her family to give back to Vision Australia.
She said she would be at markets across the district throughout February to sell raffle tickets in person. Tickets can also be purchased online.
Prizes for the ‘mega raffle’ are only redeemable in the participating Wimmera businesses.
People can search www.facebook.com/Open-Eyes-Open-Hearts-100679575327342/ for information.
The entire January 13, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!