In flash photography healthy eyes reflect red. White can signal retinoblastoma or some other eye disease. In Joey Bergsma's case this lifesaving clue came too late."
His grandmother, Pam Bergsma, says, "Nurses told me that if she looks back through pictures she might see some pictures with white dots where there are supposed to be red dots."
Clues that came too late.
Bergsma says, "Had they told me this when I was a girl scout I would have remembered. I just would have known. Joey's cancer spread to his brain. He died Dec 22, 2000.
Shortly after our story aired in 2002, a West Palm Beach grandmother noticed something strange in her granddaughter Elexis' pictures taken at Walt Disney World.
Cheryl Bull says, "(My husband) Tim was watching TV and I said this looks like the picture Kelley Dunn had on her story it looks just like Joey."
Joey's story also resonated with a social worker who was helping one-year-old Jennifer Cruz.
Susan Slocum says, "Back in July you did a story on Joey and retinoblastoma I saw the poster with the white dot in the eye."
Little Jennifer ended up losing an eye to retinoblastoma. She was fitted with a prosthetic as a baby.
Today she is a healthy 15-year-old.
Lexi and Jennifer are just 2 of the thousands of children alive today because of Joey's message and his determined grandmother.
"I told him it would never happen to another little boy, says Pam Bergsma.”I said it would never happen again, Grandma is going to fix it."
And she's come pretty close to fixing it. Joey Bergsma Awareness days have been proclaimed in nearly every Florida county. But her dream of getting legislation passed requiring eye dilation screening at birth has yet to happen in Florida.
Pam's advice for new parents is this: " Make sure you doctor is using an ophthalmoscope, in a dark room, to look in your child's eyes. That's key, and for infants because their pupils are small do a simple eye dilation exam. It takes nurses a couple of seconds to drop in the drop and gives the doctor the opportunity to detect, we are not diagnosing we are detecting and referring. The only way this will ever be fixed is when doctor's look in children's eyes and it starts at birth."
Pam Bergsma is as passionate about this cause as she was 15 years ago. She says, "It's the right thing to do for children. It's the right thing to do for families and definitely the right thing to do for your government because we'll save millions of dollars when our children get to see."
For more information call Pam Bergsma at 561-586-2094 or go to www.lovejoey.com
I met Pam Bergsma in 2002. She was a grandmother on a mission to make sure no other child would lose their sight or their life like her grandson did. She learned after little Joey died, that sometimes a tumor or eye disease can be revealed in a photograph. She has dedicated the last decade to raising awareness and trying to get a bill approved by the state legislation mandating infant eye screenings beginning at birth.