Real Life

Our blind panic

Their dream wedding was all planned, until a medical emergency changed everything

By Aroha Awarau

When Auckland parents Jennifer and James Elliott flew to Canada with newborn baby Travis, they had the perfect wedding in their sights. But what they didn’t foresee was one of the most harrowing experiences of their lives.

Soon after arriving, four-month-old Travis was rushed into emergency surgery to save his vision.

Jennifer (39) and James (33) had flown to Montreal to introduce their family to Travis, and walk down the aisle, but everything came to a halt when they noticed something was wrong with their child’s eye.

“He had a grey cloud floating around. We knew something wasn’t right,” James says.

Travis was seen immediately by a doctor, who diagnosed congenital glaucoma, a serious eye condition commonly found in 3- to 6-month-olds.

It nearly didn’t happen, but Jennifer and  James were finally married in Canada.
It nearly didn’t happen, but Jennifer and James were finally married in Canada.

“It was a shock,” says Jennifer. “There was no time. Travis had to undergo a three-hour operation. I wanted to come home, and be with my mum [back in New Zealand], but I knew I had to be strong for Travis. I didn’t want to alarm him.”

Miraculously, he fully recovered, just in time to be by his parents’ side as they said “I do”.

“It was a very stressful time for us all,” explains Jennifer. “But we were around people who acted quickly and saved my son’s eyesight. Someone was looking out for us."

“I didn’t think we would get married, but we were still able to do it.”

Jennifer described her white wedding, attended by 15 family and friends, as “beautiful”.

Returning to New Zealand, the parents felt huge relief. They arrived home as a happily married couple, and Travis, who is now one, is in great shape.

“It was still an amazing trip. My little boy has just bounced right back.”

What is Congenital glaucoma?

Congenital glaucoma is a serious condition evident at birth, or within the first few years of life. One in 10,000 infants are affected. Most common symptoms are excessive tearing, light sensitivity, and a large, cloudy cornea.

Photos: David White • Hair & make-up: Claudia Rodrigues

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