Katelyn's sight: Stem cell treatments give TX family hope


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Katelyn's sight: Stem cell treatments give TX family hope

March 30th 2017
By Nicolette Schleisman

Katelyn is getting stem cell treatment to gain eyesight, the treatments are working

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A Karnack, Texas, family is trying everything they can to give the gift of sight for their 4-year-old daughter.

They've even gone to Thailand to get treatment.

That treatment, they say, is working.

One thing you'll hear Laci Yelvington say to daughter Katelyn is "Find some light baby."

Those simple words may not mean much.

But to Katelyn and her family, they mean everything.

"We found out pretty much right when she was born that she had a vision issue," Laci Yelvington said of Katelyn, who loves music.

The 4-year-old sings all the time with her twin sister, Allison. Some of their favorites: Taylor Swift and country music.

"It wasn't until she was about 2 months old, we learned her actual diagnosis."

Katelyn is completely blind.

She has septo optic dysplasia. That means her optic nerve, which carries visual information from the eyes to the brain, is small.

Upon diagnosis, her parents set to finding something that would help.

"We're trying to go to Thailand, we're trying to get stem cells to help grow that optic nerve where, hopefully, one day she'll be able to picture that image and have eyesight," said Josh Yelvington, Katelyn's dad.

Last year, Katelyn and her parents boarded a plane to Thailand to try stem cell treatment to regrow her nerve.

While there, Katelyn could see light.

"And that was pretty much the first time we had seen her actually grab something. A different color. That's where she learned her favorite color was green," Josh Yelvington said.

It was hard to believe that it was actually working, Laci Yelvington said.

But once home after 18 days in Thailand, she started to notice something different about Katelyn.

"It was obvious how she wasn't bumping into things."

Katelyn spotted the light on our cameras while we interviewed her and gestured for it.

"I want to hold the light!" Laci Yelvington interpreted the gesture. "She goes straight to it."

They're going back to Thailand for another treatment this year.

Doctors think she'll have to have four treatments to gain her eyesight.

Each treatment costs about $40,000. But the Yelvingtons say it is worth it.

"My baby might be able to watch a movie. She'll be able to do things that her little sister can do. She won't be left out," Laci Yelvington said.

"It's still emotional for me now."

Hoping to give her the gift of sight. Katelyn told her mom while in Thailand for her treatment last year that she wants to see a Christmas tree.

So when she gets her sight back, her parents plan on taking her to see the Rockefeller Center tree in New York City.

This weekend, there are several fundraisers to help the Yelvingtons pay for this round of treatments.

One will be Saturday in Vivian. It's the Softball for Pawpaw Tournament at Vivian's city park. The tournament starts at 7:45 a.m. and goes all day. They will raffle off a rifle there. All proceeds will go to Katelyn.

On Sunday, there will be a fundraiser with the Waskom, Texas, Volunteer Fire Department. They will serve chicken fried steak dinners starting at 11 a.m. at the Waskom Central Fire Station off U.S. Highway 80. Tickets cost $12 at the door. All proceeds go straight to Katelyn. They also will raffle off a rifle there; the cost is $5 per entry.

And there is a GoFundMe https://www.gofundme.com/sightforkatelyn page set up for Katelyn to help her family with expenses.

You can keep up with their efforts by clicking here. http://www.facebook.com/sightforkatelyn/

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