Toddler sees and hears mum for first time

Nicolly as a baby, and with her mum before the surgery.
Nicolly as a baby, and with her mum before the surgery.  Photo: Facebook

​For the first two years of her life, Nicolly Pereira was completely blind and deaf. 

In the family's home town of Santa Catarina, Brazil, Nicolly underwent seven surgeries with the hope of reversing the pediatric glaucoma that had taken her eyesight and left her unable to even see light. Eventually, however, doctors said it was impossible to repair.

It seemed the little girl was destined to grow up in a dark and silent world. She also seemed to be developmentally disabled, as she didn't walk or talk at all.

Nicolly recovering after surgery, and with her mum.
Nicolly recovering after surgery, and with her mum.  Photo: Facebook

But her mother, Daiana Pereira, refused to take that as the final word. She shared Nicolly's story on Facebook in the hopes of finding an answer, and as more and more people started to follow her story, a fundraising effort began.

Eventually $17,000 was raised to bring the mum and daughter to Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, in Miami.

In March, Alana Grajewski, director of the institute's paediatric glaucoma centre, met the couple before surgery.

"When she arrived, I felt I had made a mistake, because normally when they have the children arrive, they have some sort of vision that's measurable," Grajewski told the Miami Herald. "We have a technician look at them initially and … they wrote down that Nicolly couldn't see anything, not even a light."

On the same day as her three-hour eye surgery came another half-hour operation, when Nicolly had fluid drained from both ears in an effort to help her hear for the first time. 

And after the surgeries came hope. In spite of wearing patches on both eyes, there was an instant change in the toddler as she smiled from ear to ear and started singing to herself.

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Then came the big moment when she had the patches removed. "I loved the feeling of first seeing her mum's face," Grajewski said. "That just moved me so much … all of a sudden, she realised: 'Oh my gosh, that's my mum.' And her mother could tell the recognition.

"It was just one of those moments – priceless."

Two months later, Nicolly can now hear, see and stand on her own. She is nearsighted and wears glasses, and will need more care back home in Brazil, as well as more appointments in Miami, but her life is already immeasurably changed, says her mum.

"I feel like 'mission accomplished' – that there's a 'yes' for all those 'nos' I received for two years when I was told it wasn't possible," Daiana said.

"That fact that now it's possible, that it happened, makes me feel incredible."