A World-Expanding Alignment
Alberto Consuelo was born with strabismus, sometimes referred to as cross-eyed” or “wall-eyed,” but as a youngster in Mexico he did not have access to physicians who could correct this misalignment. “I had a hard time as a kid, because people made fun of my lazy eye,” he lamented. “When I got older, people didn’t want to hire me because of how I looked. Living with this disability was very difficult because people treated me differently, and that made me very self-conscious.”
Although Consuelo moved to San Diego at age 12, it wasn’t until he was older and living in Alameda, California, that a physician in an Oakland clinic told him that surgery could straighten his eye. Soon he had an appointment with Dr. Taliva Martin, a pediatric ophthalmologist and adult strabismus specialist who enjoys the challenges and rewards of helping adult strabismus patients. “Too many adults live their entire lives unhappy with their appearance, hesitant to make eye contact and interact socially due to ocular misalignment,” she said. “It can have a significant negative impact on their lives and careers. Reconstructive procedures in these cases can be life-changing.”
About 5% of children in the US are affected by strabismus, but up to 50%-90% of children with associated conditions such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome may be born with strabismus. Parents and siblings of children with strabismus also have a higher chance of being affected. In this condition, a person looses the ability to direct the right and left eye towards the same direction. This loss of binocularity can disrupt the development of normal vision in a child and create double vision in adults. Many strabismus sufferers are treated during childhood and avoid the impaired vision and discrimination that often accompany the condition.
Consuelo, was born with a large angle esotropia, meaning that his left eye turned inward. During surgery lasting about 90 minutes, Dr. Martin, assisted by resident Dr. Michael Hemond, realigned the eyes by moving his eye muscles. Bandaged overnight, he viewed his transformation the next morning. “It was like a dream come true,” he said.
“Now I can see well with both eyes instead of just one, and I can look people straight in the eye instead of looking down or away,” Consuelo says. “Along with my new appearance, the world looks much bigger to me now in more ways than one. I will be forever grateful to Dr. Martin for being so helpful and kind to me.”