Four years ago, a traumatic car accident left 10-year-old Daniela Duarte blind in her left eye with paralysis of her right eyelids. Recently, her care was entrusted by Archbishop John Joseph Myers of Newark, New Jersey, into the hands of St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles.On Feb. 1, ophthalmic plastic surgeon Robert Levine, MD, performed a rare operation to successfully restore her eyesight.

“I heard a call from Our Lord, a call asking me to do all I could to help,” said Archbishop Myers. “I am grateful to Dr. Turbin and the staff at St. Vincent Medical Center. They heard the call as well.” Dr. Roger Turbin is an ophthalmologist at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and the referring physician on the case.

Archbishop Myers took on Daniela’s case by personally contacting the Daughters of Charity, Province of the West, whose Provincialate is located in Los Altos Hills, Calif. As founders of the Daughters of Charity Health System and sponsor of St. Vincent Medical Center, the Daughters joined the archbishop in his quest to bring Daniela cross-country for this highly specialized microsurgical operation.

 “On the day she left for Los Angeles, Daniela and her mother visited with me,” Archbishop Myers said. “Together, we prayed and talked of our hope for her. It isn’t always fashionable to talk about miracles these days, but thanks to everyone from the doctors and nurses in Los Angeles and Newark, to the pilot and crew of the angel flight, Daniela has a favorable future.”

Daniela underwent four hours of surgery at St. Vincent Medical Center on Feb. 1, an operation called “reanimation of the eyelid with a palpebral spring.” Dr. Levine implanted a tiny spring in her upper eyelid and a Medpor plastic implant in her lower eyelid to keep it from sagging. The surgery will give her some ability to open her eye by giving upward spring in her upper lid, while keeping the bottom lid up to protect her cornea from dryness. 

“I had to balance the opening and closing forces of the lid,” explained Dr. Levine, who has performed about 2,000 of these surgeries over his career at St. Vincent Medical Center and ambulatory surgery centers. Most surgeries have been in conjunction with the House Clinic in Los Angeles, where patients with cranio-facial nerve loss come for sub-specialist care in removing brain tumors. 

Two days post-surgery, Daniela and her mother, Maria Fatima Moco, recuperated in the Seton Guest Center on campus at St. Vincent Medical Center. Daniela’s eye was still swollen, but she was in good spirits and talked with great anticipation about the upcoming birth of a niece or nephew. “And guess how many cats I have?” she asked with girlish enthusiasm.

Maria Fatima spoke in Spanish about how her daughter likes all her academic subjects and would like to go to Disneyland one day. Maria Fatima said she had complete confidence in Dr. Levine and her daughter’s Newark ophthalmologist, Dr. Turbin. “I just want her to be able to see,” offered Maria Fatima, shedding some tears.

“This story offers a glimpse into our Mission at Daughters of Charity Health System,” added St. Vincent Medical Center President/CEO Cathy Fickes. “And when necessary, we join together with others near and far to make it happen.”

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