Blind teen waits for results of stem cell surgery

Salmon Arm teen Jody Hanna underwent the procedure that could give her sight Jan. 11 and specialists are very hopeful of success.

Eye on future: Jody Hanna must now wait to see if a recent stem cell procedure will give her the gift of sight.

Eye on future: Jody Hanna must now wait to see if a recent stem cell procedure will give her the gift of sight.

It’s now a game of wait and see – literally.

Salmon Arm teen Jody Hanna underwent the procedure that could give her the gift of sight Jan. 11 in Phoenix, Ariz.

And specialists who harvested her own stem cells in the morning, injecting them in her optic nerves in the afternoon, are very hopeful of success.

“It went really well but it was a hard day,” says Jody’s mom, Alicia. “The morning was difficult because they injected two bags of fluid into Jody’s abdomen to separate stem cells from fatty tissue and that was the part that was painful.”

Always hopeful of collecting one million stem cells, doctors were delighted to harvest about 50 million from Jody.

“They got more so they are very hopeful she will gain something – but they don’t know what that is,” says Alicia. “They don’t know how much damage there was to the optic nerve. It really is a waiting game.”

And the waiting game could continue for another six months to a year.

“They did say the first thing we’ll notice is her cognitive ability, to be sharper with her conversation, listening more and trying to be part of other people’s conversation,” says Alicia. “When her optic nerve didn’t develop, a part of the brain didn’t develop either. So when she’s told a story, she can’t recite it back unless she’s told it several times. Then she remembers it because the memory part of her brain is so developed.”

Born with optic nerve hypoplasia, the part of Jody’s brain that didn’t grow is also the area that has to do with recognizing danger.

For example, Jody understands that fire is to be avoided, but if she were home alone and wanted to cook, she  would know enough to turn the burner off, but not that it would remain hot.

“She wouldn’t realize the danger of that unless she experienced it, it’s experience that teaches her,” adds Alicia, adding Jody also doesn’t understand the danger other people might pose. “She just trusts; it’s that innocent child in her.”

The part of Jody’s brain that governs vision has never worked before, so it has to work too, says Alicia.  In which case, Jody may see something, but the brain may not be aware of it at first.

“For Jody, the slower she gets it the better; she may start seeing something and not know, but she might reach out for it and kind of know it’s already there,” says Alicia, trying to explain the complicated process.

“The same with a shadow; she might see it and walk around it instead of through it. Those are the things we have to watch for.”

Doctors at the Stem Cell Rejuvenation Center in Phoenix have said Alicia and Jody’s education assistants will be the first to pick up changes in her ability to retain information because they spend the most time with her.

“They don’t see why she won’t gain something, but it will do that on its own time,” Alicia says, noting Jody in the meantime, is her usual happy self. “She keeps saying, ‘I can’t see yet, but hopefully.’”

Doctors told the family they try to do the procedure in such a way that it never has to be repeated, but  did agree if there was insufficient improvement, Jody might be a candidate for another try a year from now.

“That will depend on what she gets (in terms of vision) and whether she feels comfortable with it,” says Alicia.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A logging truck spilled its load on Squilax-Anglemont Road after failing to negotiate a shard corner on Jan. 19. (Google Maps image)
Logging truck loses load, blocks traffic in North Shuswap

Jan. 19 incident on Squilax-Anglemont Road obstructed traffic for several hours

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

Home Owner Grant applications will no longer be done through the City of Salmon Arm's property tax notices. (File photo)
City of Salmon Arm no longer handling Home Owner Grant applications

B.C. government to open to new online system for grant applications

The Greater Vernon Ringette Association is one of six Vernon sports groups benefitting from B.C.’s Local Sport Relief Fund. (Morning Star file photo)
Relief funds keep Okanagan in the game

Clubs at risk of closure due to inability to offer programs and fundraise

The Salmon Arm health area saw 36 new COVID-19 cases reported between Jan. 10 and 16. (BCCDC Image)
January COVID case numbers in Salmon Arm area already exceed 2020 total

Live data suggests Salmon Arm area saw 53 reported COVID-19 cases between Jan. 3 and 16.

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Kevin Lee Barrett is charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. (Facebook)
Court hears of victim’s injuries in West Kelowna attempted murder trial

Two-week-long trial continues for Kevin Barrett, accused of trying to kill mother in West Kelowna

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A mother hold hands with her daughter while sharing about her struggles with addiction during Overdose Awareness Day. (Jesse Major/Black Press file)
Overdose and suicide support group starts in Penticton

Penticton was one of the province’s communities hardest hit by the overdose crisis in 2020

Jan. 21 marks the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century, according to some. (Black Press Media file photo)
The 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century is upon us

Milestone won’t be back for another 100 years

The steel mills in the Hamilton waterfront harbour are shown in Hamilton, Ont., on Tuesday, October 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Dyer: Stay the course on Carbon pricing

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Voting is the number one, bare minimum way to have your voice heard by government. (File photo)
Jocelyn’s Jottings: Want to make change? Here are some suggestions

As a citizen you have a voice, you just have to know who to talk to

Most Read