Watching this baby see her mother for the first time will make you bawl.
Born with a rare condition that caused a blinding build-up of fluid in her eyes, Nicolly Pereira had never seen her mother’s face. Treatment at home in rural Brazil wouldn’t suffice, so Nicolly’s mother, Daiana, posted her story on Facebook. Within days, thousands had shared it and donations came pouring in. They raised $17,000, and soon Nicole was on her way to the U.S. for surgery. Three hours after the surgery started, Nicolly reuinited with her mother. The moment Nicolly saw her mother for the first time is nothing short of amazing. Daiana could not have possibly been happier, “The only word that can be used to describe the feeling is God. My daughter is now free.”
Doctors will continue to monitor her eyes, but with the help of some highly awesome pink glasses, Nicolly will get to know her newly colorful world.
Watch Nicolly see her mother for the first time in her life. Cry. Repeat.
A British teenager is the first believed to have gone blind solely due to a poor diet of junk food. This has to be one of every young person’s worst nightmares. How many of us were raised to believe that it’s in those formative teen years we are able to indulge in all the bad foods we want before our slower metabolism kicks in with age?
Before we did that bizarre experiment in tenth grade, where you put a penny in Coca-Cola and it dissolves due to the acids, I singularly lived off of soda. I did not drink water. My Dominican abuela would put a teaspoon of sugar in my brother and I’s Sunny Delight orange juice. I am not saying this is right (it’s definitely not the best way to live), I am just saying it is not uncommon for young people to make the worst possible food choices when left to their own devices. And of course, junk and fast food companies aren’t so innocent.
The combination of aggressive marketing along with food scientists who make artificial flavors taste better than real food and more addictive, has had damaging effects on public health. So while it might be your first instinct to roast this boy, let’s consider all the social factors that made his blindness possible in the first place.
How can junk food make you go blind?
Scientists from the University of Bristol examined the case of a young boy who slowly lost his hearing and vision over the course of four years. The boy who was a picky eater since elementary school, only ate Pringles potato chips, white bread, processed ham and sausage, and avoided many nutritious foods.
He first saw a doctor at 14, complaining of tiredness. He was not on medication and had a normal BMI. Tests revealed he had low vitamin B12 levels and anemia. After treating him with B12 injections, a year later, he showed signs of hearing loss and vision. Doctors were baffled. By the time he was 17, he became legally blind. Doctors detected low vitamin B12, low copper, selenium, vitamin D and bone level density, along with high levels of zinc.
Essentially, he was malnourished.
Developing countries face similar health hurdles.
Researchers from the Bristol Medical School and Bristol Eye Hospital determined he had nutritional optic neuropathy. For the patient, the blindness was permanent, although it is reversible if detected early. Typically, a case like this in the developed world would be the result of bowel problems or medication that obstructs the absorption of nutrients.
However, poor diet was the cause for the 17-year-old. Nutritional optic neuropathy is typically found in patients from developing nations with poverty, famine, drought, and war.
A cautionary tale.
“Our vision has such an impact on quality of life, education, employment, social interactions, and mental health,” said study lead author Denize Atan, an ophthalmologist at Bristol Medical School and Bristol Eye Hospital. “This case highlights the impact of diet on visual and physical health, and the fact that calorie intake and BMI are not reliable indicators of nutritional status.”
Researchers believe this is an extreme case but caution against a junk food diet. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat the Popeye’s Fried Chicken sandwich, it just means it can’t be the only thing you eat over the course of a decade.
“Although it is an extreme example, it highlights the importance of having a wide and varied diet to ensure that you get the profile of nutrients and micronutrients that are needed for healthy development,” Gary Frost, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at Imperial College London, told CNN.
Because this teenager is anonymous lots of questions remain. Why didn’t the parents intervene sooner? Will they be held accountable? Why weren’t doctors able to address the seriousness of the child’s diet sooner?
We should hold food companies more accountable.
Food scientists intentionally make foods unnaturally delicious and addictive because their goal isn’t to make people healthy, it’s to sell more food products.
“Humans have an inherited preference for energy-rich foods — like fats and sugars — and thus natural selection has predisposed us to foods high in sugar and fat,” Jennifer Kaplan, a teacher at the Culinary Institute of America, told Salon. “Food scientists know this and create ingredients that are far higher in fat and sugar than occur in nature. The most common such sugar is high-fructose corn syrup and is therefore intrinsically addictive.”
A study in 2013, showed that high fructose corn syrup, the artificial sweetener used in most prepackaged foods, is as addictive as heroin and cocaine because of the way it releases dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone that tells your brain it is being rewarded.
When society ain’t looking out for you and the adults in your life ain’t looking out for you, well it is hard to stand a chance. Let’s hope this patient’s cautionary tale helps someone make more thoughtful food choices.
Mickey Ibarra is a Latino political pioneer and has been serving our community for the past 30 years.
His resume for public service is impeccable: he was Director of The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs under the Clinton administration, worked for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund Board, and, among many other accomplishments, is the founder of Latino Leaders Network, a nonprofit that brings leaders together to share personal stories of the obstacles they conquered in order to help them achieve success.
Interestingly enough, Ibarra understands what it means to face obstacles and thrive despite them. “Started from the bottom” is an understatement when it comes to Ibarra especially when you consider that for him, the bottom was at two-years-old when he became an orphan.
How is it possible for a young boy — along with his younger brother — to endure a life of instability and racism and come out of that as a success? Ibarra tells mitú he had no other choice but move forward. Ibarra says that his life was turned upside down when his young father and mother divorced when he was two, sending his life into unknown turmoil.
“My father, a very dark indio from Oaxaca, Mexico, came to this country in 1945, and worked as a bracero.” Ibarra says. “He met my mother along the way who was white of European descent. They married when she was just 16.”
“I’ll tell you, a Mexican married to a white woman in Salt Lake City, Utah in the early ’50s was not a socially acceptable thing to do.”
Needless to say, that was just one of the many factors why Ibarra’s parents got divorced. Soon after his father went to fight the Korean War, Ibarra and his younger brother, David, were placed in foster care.
For the remainder of their adolescent lives, one of the families that cared for Ibarra and his brother was a Mormon family.
They lived with the Smith family for six years in Provo, Utah. Ibarra says that during this time, Mormons had a practice of taking kids right off the Indian reservation and placed them with white families that agreed to take them in and provide care and schooling. Ibarra says that they were often mistaken for being Native American. He recalls this period as not very pleasant, especially for his brother David who was darker than him.
“We were known to be the Indian kids, and I guess in many respects we were,” Ibarra says with a chuckle. “We definitely stood out… I’m here to tell you skin color makes a difference.”
Ibarra says that one thing he and his brother hated more than anything was being asked by people “so why are you living with the Smith family?” Ibarra says that question always forced them to remember that they were abandoned by their parents.
“It was a real struggle,” Ibarra says. “A real identity struggle.”
At 15, Ibarra and his brother were finally able to reunite with their father who by that time was living in Sacramento. It was only then that they were able to reconnect with their Mexican roots and their family.
His father went to the Hollywood Beauty College under the GI bill and opened The Mona Lisa House of Beauty, in Sacramento. After Ibarra finished high school he enrolled in Brigham Young University, and because he didn’t do well during his freshman year he decided to enlist in the U.S. Army. However, he re-enrolled in Brigham Young, and graduated cum laude in political science.
His career in politics began during his senior year when he participated in the school’s Washington Seminar Program. Ibarra was assigned to the National Education Association (NEA), the largest teachers union. That truly kicked off his teaching and advocacy career which would lead up to a job with Bill Clinton.
In 1984, Ibarra moved to D.C. as he took a bigger role with the NEA. In 1996, he took a leave of absence to join Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign.
“My leap to the White House didn’t happen immediately,” Ibarra told CNN. “After winning, Clinton’s chief of staff, Erskine Bowles, offered me a deputy position.”
While Ibarra never planned on working at the White House, his father and foster families instilled that an education would be crucial to his success. Clearly they were right.
His jobs at the White House consisted of serving as assistant to the president and director of intergovernmental affairs at the White House in 1997, serving as one of the highest-ranking members of President Clinton’s senior staff.
It’s been three decades since Ibarra first began his career of serving the Latino community — and he’s not done by any means.
Mickey Ibarra with Antonio Villaraigosa, Eva Longoria, and Dolores Huerta.
“Mickey is an incredible advocate for our community — not just the Latino community but for all communities of this great country,” former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wrote “Mickeyisms: 30 Tips for Success,” Ibarra’s book foreword. “He is a man who lives by his words. Others may try to tear us down but we must build each other up.”
“In these times of struggle, I think it’s important to re-commit ourselves to engagement. There’s a need for engagement now more than ever. Yes, it is challenging,” Ibarra said of our current political climate. “And we can be down about it but none of that will help change anything.
“We as a Latino community cannot have it both ways. We cannot demand to have a seat at the table, and then when a seat at the table is provided to us not walk through the door and accept it. We need to really consider that responsibility not just to ourselves but to our community.”