Oak Creek 4-year-old fights for her eyesight
Steamboat Springs — It was soon after the Fourth of July in 2013 when 2-year-old Skylar Sullivan’s parents began to notice a change in their toddler daughter.
Skylar’s left eye was red, puffy and lazy, and her pupil wasn’t round but star-shaped.
Jessicah and her husband, Lucas Sullivan, a Marine veteran, kept a close eye on Skylar, who they initially thought might be suffering from allergies.
But after weeks with no improvement, they took Skylar to a doctor, who identified the issue as a cataract.
“We were kind of shocked at first that our 2-year-old daughter had a cataract in her eye,” Jessicah Sullivan said. “That’s pretty rare.”
The family traveled from their home in Oak Creek to Denver to meet with a pediatric specialist, and Skylar underwent an initial surgery to remove the cataract.
But problems still persisted, and Skylar had to undergo a battery of tests and more surgeries in an attempt to identify what was causing the cataract and in an effort to correct the girl’s vision.
“Pretty much from there, it was bad news after bad news,” Sullivan said.
Eventually, it was determined that Skylar has Uveitis, an inflammation of the eye’s uveal tract, which, for Skylar, is caused by an autoimmune inflammatory disease.
“In Skylar’s case, something triggers her immune system to attack the body’s own tissues,” Sullivan said in an online post describing Skylar’s medical issues. “The trigger is not known.”
The damage to Skylar’s left eye has led to 20/400 vision that is blurred, dim and seen as though it’s through a fisheye lens.
She wears a patch on her healthy eye to stimulate healing in her weak eye, meaning she suffers from poor vision daily, an adjustment that’s been difficult, Sullivan said.
“That’s the sad part,” Sullivan said. “Sometimes you see her and she looks happy and normal, but then she’s walking down the stairs, and her depth perception is so off that she’ll fall down the stairs because she can’t catch herself.”
Because of the risks posed from her autoimmune disease, Skylar had to miss out on a dance class she had hoped to join and put off preschool last year as well.
Although treatments and surgeries have now slowed down, medical bills to Skylar’s family have stacked up and now exceed $100,000.
The hardship Skylar’s condition has created led Sullivan’s twin sister, Bree’aunna Turman, and another friend to get the word out to the South Routt community for possible help.
Turman has set up a Go Fund Me page and a Facebook page to share Skylar’s story and look for support and financial assistance from anyone who might be able to provide it.
“I know how the medical bills are adding up,” said Turman, whose own children have faced medical issues in the past. “I know how stressful it is. It puts a lot of pressure on not just Skylar, but on Jess and (Lucas) having to take off work all the time.”
As of Thursday, the Go Fund Me page had been shared 271 times and had generated $1,940 from 31 donors.
Despite the difficulties that Skylar’s condition has presented to her parents and herself, the now 4-year-old has remained in positive spirits most of the time, Sullivan and Turman said.
“She is the bubbliest little girl you will ever meet,” Turman said. “She will dance to any song. She loves to dance. It’s the cutest thing.”
Sullivan, who moved to her husband’s hometown of Oak Creek with him in 2011, said the support from the small community has been great so far.
“I can’t even explain how blessed we feel that people want to hear Skylar’s story and help us out,” Sullivan said. “I want everybody to know how thankful we are.”
Turman said she feels it’s important for Skylar to understand that even though she is different from other children and must wear an eye patch, she’s still important.
“She’s such a beautiful little girl. I want her to know people care about her,” Turman said.
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