Baby born with cataract undergoes three eye surgeries to save her sight: 'I just kept praying'

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Madison Artale's world grew darker before it even began. The baby, who was born on October 1 in Bellevue, Nebraska, was diagnosed with congenital cataracts at less than two months old and was at risk lose her sight forever.

Her parents, who were stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, turned to Children's Nebraska for help.

To save the child's eyesight, Dr. Paul Rychwalski, medical director of ophthalmology at the hospital, with his team on a mission.

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Brandee Artale first noticed the baby's cataracts when she was a child breastfeed hershe told Fox News Digital during an on-camera interview. (See the video at the top of this article.)

“I looked down and thought, there's something strange in her eyes,” she said.

Madison Artale, shown here in both photos, was diagnosed with congenital cataracts at just 1.5 months old. (Andrew and Brandee Artale)

At first the parents thought it was just a strange reflection of light, but their doctor confirmed that they should see an ophthalmologist.

They were referred from there Children's Nebraska.

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Congenital cataracts are quite rare in babies, according to Rychwalski.

“We consider cataracts to be older adults they have You know, grandpa needs cataract surgery,” he told Fox News Digital. “But it does happen to children.”

Madison Artale

Madison Artale, pictured here, was in danger of losing her sight forever if she did not have surgery immediately. (Andrew and Brandee Artale)

About a third of cases are hereditary, and another third stem from other medical or genetic problems, the doctor said.

The last third had an unknown cause, as was the case for Madison Arta

In eyes with cataracts, the lens directly behind the pupil is cloudy. Some cases are more serious than others, Rychwalski said.

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“In the case of Madison, it was a dense, white, cloudy cover right in the center of the visual axis,” he said.

“So there was no way to get through that to stimulate the retina and make her brain visible again. She was at risk of permanent vision loss if we didn't open up this visual access in a timely manner.”

It was important to remove the cloudy lens as quickly as possible so that the brain could get a sharp image immediately, Rychwalski said.

“I just kept praying that everything would be okay, and that she would get through it.”

Brandee Artale described the prospect of surgery for her new baby as 'terrifying'.

“I kept thinking, my daughter is only 2.5 months old and she's going under anesthesia… Is this safe for her?” she told Fox News Digital.

“I just kept praying that everything would be okay, and that she would get through it.”

Madison and Andrew Artale

Watching his daughter being wheeled into the operating room “touched my heart,” said father Andrew Artale, pictured with little Madison Artale. (Andrew and Brandee Artale)

Over the next few months, the team performed three delicate operations using the NGENUITY 3D visualization system.

“All the eye structures are very, very small,” Rychwalski said. “And so we used some of them new technology in magnification and surgical displays.”

He continued: “Instead of staring down a microscope, I'm actually sitting up with 3D glasses and looking at a really big screen. And while I'm operating, everyone in the room has the exact same view as I. There's a reverence for what we do for Madison. The teamwork in the operating room during this delicate operation is… something pretty amazing.”

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Madison Artale had cataracts removed from both eyes at different times, her father told Fox News Digital.

“And then she developed pressure problems in her left eye that required her to have a third operation,” he said.

Madison and Brandee Artale

Today, at 7 months old, Madison Artale (pictured with mom Brandee Artale) is doing well and seeing great with the help of her special prescription glasses. (Andrew and Brandee Artale)

Seeing his daughter being wheeled into an operating room “touched my heart,” Andrew Artale said.

“But she [handled] the operations astonishing. I couldn't have asked her to handle it as well as she did.”

“You need to be able to express your emotions and fears.”

Madison Artale is seven months old and is now seeing clearly. According to her parents, she is fascinated by the world around her.

To correct her eyesight, she wears special prescription glasses.

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“They're second nature to her now,” her father said. “We don't have to fight to put the glasses on. And she looks around everywhere as she normally would. So we are very happy with the results.”

Madison Artale

Sometime in the future, Madison Artale will need another surgery to implant a replacement lens, her doctor said. (Andrew and Brandee Artale)

Sometime in the future, Madison Artale will need another surgery to implant a replacement lens, the doctor said.

During the entire process, trust in Dr. Rychwalski and the entire care team at Children's Nebraska played a critical role, Brandee Artale said.

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“I think that's probably the most important thing for any parent… having a relationship with your doctor. You need to be able to express your emotions and fears.”

She added, “Having that relationship… has made this whole journey so much easier for all of us.”

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