Kisses and cuddles cajoule little Ivy to smile for the camera. Hours earlier her mum, Jamie-Lee Schmitzer sat with Ivy in a Taree medical practice to watch her receive her one-year immunisation needle; it was a minor medical procedure for the little girl who is learning to adapt to seeing the world with one eye.
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On November 23, about one month before her first birthday Ivy endured the surgical removal of an eye at Westmead Children’s Hospital after the diagnosis of a rare epithelioma tumor in her eye. Post-operative treatment involved the use of a prosthetic eye and last week, Jamie-Lee took to social media to issue a desperate appeal to our community for help – Ivy’s prosthetic eye had been lost.
The Manning River Times spoke with Jamie-lee last Thursday, published her story online and the community rallied to share the story on Facebook reaching more than 28,000 people. The story prompted donations to the GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to help the family meet Ivy’s ongoing medical expenses, and as of January 9 community donations exceed $8500. The prosthesis is still missing and Jamie-Lee is hopeful someone may have picked it up, that a young child may have found it and popped it in their pocket and is urging people to continue to be mindful of their wish to find the prosthesis.
Jamie-Lee says her family is so thankful for the genuine interest in Ivy’s wellbeing and offers to try to help.
We are so overwhelmed, we truly are. There is a generous community out there and we are very lucky to have such wonderful people surrounding us and willing to help us through this hard time.Jamie-Lee Schmitzer.
She says the donations “will help us so much with ongoing medical costs and travelling to Sydney as Ivy will probably need a new eye every three to four months as she is so little and is growing.”
Ivy’s brother, Nate adores his little sister, and is the one who raised the alarm that the prosthesis was missing. They had shopped at Aldi on January 3 and then parked in Manning Street outside of Best and Less, visited the Commonwealth Bank, then walked past Manning Shoe Trendz and The Sicilian on the way to St George and back again.
“When we got home my son, Nate said, ‘Mum! Mum! Ivy’s eye looks different!’ and that’s when I noticed her eye was not there,” Jamie-Lee said.
It was a shock and another challenge for the young family to try to manage after a terrible few months. She says the day of Ivy’s surgery is one that she and her partner, Matthew Bevitt will never forget and the journey to that moment in time began a few months earlier when they noticed a change in Ivy’s eye colour.
“She had two big, beautiful bright blue eyes from about two to six months and then around the eight month mark we noticed her eyes were changing colour – one was bright blue and one was a darker colour. I also noticed that when we went outside Ivy would not open the darker colour eye.
“We went to the doctor and got a referral to see the opthamologist at Manning Eye Surgery, Dr Jimmy George. We were there on the Tuesday morning and were told to be down at Westmead Children’s Hospital that night.
“We were left in the dark, we did not know what was going on. We weren’t told anything, we were just told to get down to Westmead. It was scary, very, very scary.”
Jamie-Lee says after about a week of testing, ultrasounds, x-rays and MRI scans they learned Ivy had a very rare epithelioma tumor in her eye, and that she was one of only 50 known cases in the world.
“I now know she was in pain. She was really irritable and uncomfortable but I just thought it was teething, but obviously it was not.
The hardest thing as a mother is signing those papers and handing your daughter over for surgery, knowing that when she comes back she is not going to have her eye. My emotions were running wild and I didn’t know what to feel. I was so scared for our baby girl.Jamie-Lee Schmitzer.
Jamie-Lee is so proud of her daughter and says she has a new nickname.
“We call her The Little Princess Warrior.”
If found, Ivy’s prosthesis can be taken to Taree Police Station. Donations can be made at the GoFundMe page www.gofundme.com/sweet-ivys-medical-costs-fund