When Richie Lopez was born, his family couldn’t have been happier, but nearly two weeks later, when the baby still had not opened his eyes, the hospital made a shocking discovery: he had none.
Kelly Lopez, mother of the now 3-month-old baby Richie, told reporters that she had a completely normal pregnancy otherwise, and that an ultrasound never revealed anything out of the ordinary.
"I think we were just in shock. Obviously very upsetting," she told reporters at local channel 3TV. "The first thought through your mind is, how did this even happen and how was it not even caught?"
After being concerned that her child wasn’t opening his eyes several hours after birth, the hospital staff at Banner Medical Center in Mesa, Arizona, assured her that his face was simply swollen from the birthing process.
After thirteen days though, the hospital gave Richie an MRI revealing that he had no eyes.
Aside from his condition, Richie is an otherwise healthy baby. According to 3TV, doctors have sutured in expanders in his eye sockets, which allow his sockets to grow in order to one day hold a prosthetic eyeball. However, Richie seems to prefer to be left the way he was born, after rubbing both out during feedings and burpings.
One of the expanders was lost and believed to be eaten by the family dog. Serendipitously, the other was found while Kelly was on the phone with a surgeon and she was able to re-insert it.
"It was so emotional, but I knew I had to do it. I knew that he needed this and I had no other choice; we were going to get it back in," Kelly recalled.
The Lopez’s are hopeful and optimistic about little Richie's future, but are readying themselves for reactions from the public -- which they expect to be “ignorant” of their baby’s condition. The family has good reason to be hopeful: doctors have told the family that their baby does have an optic nerve, which means one day he may be able to see. For Kelly, that brings her hope.
"That would be amazing," she said. "I do hope that one day that they'll be able to either grow an eye or transplant an eye."
According to 3TV, the family has enrolled Richie in “developmental programs designed for blind babies and plays with specially designed toys.”
A baby was born last year without eyes in Denver, Colorado. Doctors have said that the babies have a rare condition called Anophthalmia, which is defined as the “total absence of the eye tissue or apparent absence of the globe in an orbit that otherwise contains normal adnexal structures,” says a report by UPI. The condition occurs one in every 250,000 people.