Jamaican boy, going blind, has eye surgery in Boca

BOCA RATON - A poor Jamaican boy who was slowly going blind had successful eye surgery Monday thanks to a Florida man who read about his story in a newspaper during a trip to the island.

Demar Brown, who turned 10 on August 1, was flown to South Florida to undergo a corneal transplant to restore his vision.

The boy suffered from a degenerative eye disorder and was forced to drop out of his elementary school last fall because he could no longer see the chalkboard.

Lloyd Millanise, a Delray Beach resident and Jamaica native, read about Demar in The Daily Star of Kingston during a March trip. The article said that Demar's family, from the town of Ewarton, could not afford to pay for the surgery, which could cost up to $75,000 if done locally.

Millanise said he thought about Demar for several days, and after talking to his wife about the boy's plight, decided to help. He said he was prepared to pay for the surgery himself, which cost $15,000.

"To me, the money was not the thing," said Millanise, who owns a coin laundry."You're helping a young man for his future. Without an education, without sight, what have you got?"

When Millanise returned home, he contacted Air Jamaica and the airline agreed to donate plane tickets for Demar and his aunt, Dian English.

Then Millanise approached his eye surgeon, Dr. Eric Rothchild, during a follow-up visit for laser eye surgery he underwent in the fall.

Rothchild agreed to perform Demar's surgery for free. A Miami Bank paid for the $1,500 cornea from a 21-year-old donor.

"It went great," Rothchild told Millanise, English and another aunt who lives nearby in Miramar after the surgery at the Boca Raton Outpatient Surgery and Laser Center."It was a tough case. It wasn't easy, but he's fine."

Demar suffered from keratoconus, in which the cornea becomes thin and cone shaped. It causes distorted vision and sensitivity to light, although symptoms usually appear when people are in their 20s.

The boy's vision had gotten progressively worse in the last year, until he could only see shadows, Rothchild said.

Rothchild said he would take the bandage off Tuesday. He will monitor the boy closely for signs of infection or transplant rejection. He expects him to regain his vision, although he may have to wear glasses.

Once the left eye has recovered, he plans to perform the surgery on the boy's right eye.

After learning about Demar, Rothchild formed a nonprofit foundation to perform free eye surgery on other indigent children who are blind or have a severe eye disease.

He said the Rothchild Eye Foundation for Children also will pay for Demar to fly back to South Florida for monthly checkups.

"I have three healthy boys; we all take that for granted," Rothchild said."For a kid like this to be pulled away from school, this is an important time for him to function like any other child."