April 4, 2014 at 10:29 AM ET
When her 3-year-old daughter gave herself a new hairdo last fall, Tara Taylor proudly posted a photo of the look on Facebook. It wasn’t the cute bows that one friend noticed, though, but another detail that helped save the little girl’s sight.
Taylor’s daughter, Rylee, had never shown any signs of vision loss, and likes to ride her bike and walk on the balance beam. After Taylor posted the hairdo photo in October, her friend, Stacy Carter, expressed concern about the glow in Rylee’s left eye.
“I knew from a friend that a glow in the eye from a picture can mean there’s something wrong with the eye,” Carter said in a TODAY segment Friday. “I just texted Tara and told her, ‘Hey, it could be nothing, it could just be the flash, but there could be something wrong with Rylee’s eye.’”
Rylee’s parents took more pictures that night and realized it wasn’t a camera fluke.
“I wouldn’t say we were terrified, but there was definitely concern, because we thought worst case scenario, what if our child has cancer?” Rylee’s father, Jason, said on TODAY.
They brought her to a retina specialist in Memphis, Tenn., who performed a vision test and diagnosed her with Coats disease, a rare condition that can lead to blindness.
“She said, ‘Mama, I can’t see it,’” Tara Taylor said. “It kind of took my breath away because I was like, I can’t believe my child cannot see at all out of her left eye.”
Dr. Jorge Calzada discovered that Rylee had two telltale signs of the disease.
“If this had not been detected at the time it was, she probably would have ended up having a total retinal detachment, with total vision loss,” Calzada told TODAY.
Coats disease involves blood vessels that become dilated in the retina and leak fluid that accumulates in the eye, causing vision loss. It affects approximately 1 in 100,000 patients, Calzada said.
While it is unlikely Rylee will recover full central vision in her eye, laser treatment and injections have restored some of her peripheral vision.
Her parents are grateful that their friend was looking closely.
“With our friends looking at our pictures and being involved with our lives, it’s made a huge impact,” Tara Taylor said. “It’s changed our lives actually.”
In 2008, a Florida woman learned that her 1-year-old daughter had retinoblastoma, a potentially deadly form of childhood cancer, after she posted the child's photo on a pregnancy Web site and another mom alerted her about a white shadow in the baby’s left eye.