Story of Healing

Ari Dunlap

Madison Parish

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"When I heard glaucoma I thought, that’s only something that happens in an older person. Then, I read up on it and realized it’s something kids can be born with it, and it changes over time."

In Tallulah, Louisiana, lives a family who sees the world through a positive lens. It all started when Ari Dunlap was just six months old and was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma. This came as a shock to Ari’s mom, Delarriea, who describes how difficult it was in the beginning to learn about her daughter’s condition. 


“I knew something wasn’t right when her eyes started changing colors. Her eyes were dark brown, and then her right eye turned completely grey,” says Delarriea. “When I heard glaucoma I thought, that’s only something that happens in an older person. Then, I read up on it and realized it’s something kids can be born with it, and it changes over time.” 


Also known as pediatric or infantile glaucoma, this is a rare condition that may be inherited, caused by incorrect development of the eye’s drainage system before birth. 


Delarriea was referred to Dr. George Ellis, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. She says Dr. Ellis was an integral part of Ari’s life when it came to learning the specific details of her condition and referring her to all of the proper healthcare specialists.  


“In total, Ari’s had about ten eye surgeries. She’s had cataract surgery, she’s had a stent placed in her eye so her tear duct could drain, and she’s had a cornea transplant,” describes Delarriea. “At first, I was scared and very nervous, because my baby had to have these major surgeries dealing with her eyes. Thankfully, I have a strong praying auntie who told me everything was going to be okay. The Lord has taken care of her. She never even fusses coming out of surgery. Doctors tell us she’s the best patient they’ve had.” 


Ari is now five years old and doing an exceptional job in school, according to Delarriea. She loves to sing, dance, and play the bossy-mom role with her two siblings. 


“She’s my go-to baby. She’s always telling her siblings what to do and picking up after them,” Delarriea jokes. “While in school, I really stay connected with Ari’s teacher. We have to make sure she sits close to the board and has a magnifying glass so she can see better. Overall, I’m very proud of her and her upbeat mindset. She would tell you, ‘I see fine. There’s nothing wrong with my eye’.”  


Delarriea says that Ari will have to continue to have surgery throughout her life to relieve pressure built up in her right eye, like the scar tissue that has collected from previous surgeries. In all, she says she’s thankful Children’s Hospital is here to provide expert ophthalmology care, and that she’d do the drive from Tallulah to New Orleans a million times if it means the best quality care for her child.  


“I love the fact that from the first second we met Dr. Ellis, he dove right in to help Ari. He explained everything so thoroughly, and when he didn’t have an answer, he would contact other physicians from LCMC Health hospitals and find the correct solution for our family,” says Delarriea. “To be honest, it’s a learning process for us all. She’s learning braille and our family is too, knowing this is a degenerative condition. But we all stay positive in order to encourage Ari, even though really, she encourages us each and every day.” 


Learn more about pediatric eye care at Children’s Hospital New Orleans here