O’Neill Family: Camille, Age 3, Retinopathy of Prematurity
O’Neill Family Video
Transcript of O’Neill Family Video
Narrator 1: A photo and home video of mom, dad, and two toddler girls, unwrapping gifts and playing with toys.
Dad: There you go.
Dad: Good job, Camille.
Narrator 2: It’s Camille O’Neill’s third birthday captured on home video. Camille was born premature and now has severe retinopathy of prematurity. She also has delays in speech and gross motor skills. Her parents, Bill and Jen, maximize every moment, helping her walk and sing.
Camille O’Neill: [Singing] …quack, quack, quack.
Dad: Good job!
Narrator 1: Camille, wearing glasses, plays with alphabet toys as she sits on her mom’s lap.
Narrator 2: Becoming educated on how best to help a visually impaired child learn can be eye-opening. At a recent conference Jen attended, experts put the learning curve into sharp focus.
Jen O’Neill: They said a sighted child, to learn like an independent skill, takes about 1,000 times for them to master that. For a visually impaired or blind child, it takes 5,000 to 6000 times. So you can imagine how much extra work goes into that.
[Toy singing: Every letter makes a sound, “A” says “A”]
Narrator 2: The O’Neills are up to the task. In many ways they consider Camille a miracle child.
Narrator 1: A photo of Camille, a very tiny newborn with tubes and bandages secured to her body.
Narrator 2: One of three triplets conceived after Jen took fertility drugs, Camille beat grim odds. Born at 25 weeks and weighing in at one pound, 13 ounces, Camille spent nearly three months in the neonatal intensive care unit, but she was the lucky one. Her brother, Sam, developed an infection and sister, Hannah, battled respiratory problems. Both triplets died days after birth.
Narrator 1: A framed needlework piece depicting a cross, and the names of each member of the O’Neill family.
Narrator 2: For the O’Neills, their first experience as parents was crushing.
Jen: I totally, completely fell apart, and I cried every day for a long, long time.
Narrator 1: Bill O’Neill.
Bill O’Neill: It was a long road at times and there were days that both of us, both Jen and I woke up and said, you know, the goal is to get through today.
Narrator 2: In some ways, Jen, a nurse, considered Camille’s visual impairment harder to accept than then death of her two other children.
Jen: Because of our faith, I left like they were in a better place where they were taken care of, but I felt like with Camille, here’s this little baby that may have no vision at all and I am totally responsible for her and the way she grows up and the way she will come out as a human, and I know nothing about being visually impaired. And I felt so helpless.
Narrator 1: Home video of Bill carrying baby Camille through a doorway.
Jen: Look at who is coming home for the first time!
Narrator 2: But the mood brightened when Camille arrived home in Omaha, Nebraska, at nearly five pounds. Though it took time, Jen eventually found support online by connecting with other parents dealing with similar issues.
Jen: You feel like, “Oh my gosh, I’m really not a horrible mom. I’m not the only person that’s wanted to run from this.” You start to feel like, “Okay, maybe I can do this.”
Narrator 2: The road for Camille, medically, has been a long one. In addition to ROP, she developed secondary glaucoma and cataracts. She’s had at least ten surgeries, including one to remove her right eye, and she’s had numerous procedures on her left eye to help her see colors and shapes. Still, the O’Neills do not shelter her.
Narrator 1: Camille lies on a small bed decorated with ladybug pillows.
Jen: We kind of encourage risky behaviors. For instance, when she first got into her big girl bed, to teach boundaries, I let her fall out a couple of times, you know? She learned pretty fast that, I mean, I put pillows around and stuff, but she learned pretty quickly to watch where she was going. Now she gets to the edge and says, “Got to be careful,” you know, so.
Narrator 2: Bill enjoys showing Camille off, using her vision loss as a way to educate.
Bill: And the more I talk to people and get her out and talking to the kids, and having fun, then they don’t see her as blind or visually impaired. They just see her as Camille.
Narrator 2: Helping to understand Camille’s world has come from unlikely sources, like the photographer who took this photo of Camille surrounded by Valentine’s Day candy.
Jen: And this photographer sent me a note afterwards saying it was just the most amazing experience, because for her, that candy probably went on for yards and yards and yards. She could see no end to the candy and that was totally a huge learning moment for me because that’s the way Camille sees her world. She appreciates all of that little stuff so much, and because of her, I’ve learned to do that too.
Narrator 2: Camille has started preschool and doctors recently fitted her with a prosthetic eye. She enjoys playing with her younger sister, Olivia, seen here at 17 months.
Narrator 1: Camille and Olivia playing with puzzles.
Narrator 2: The O’Neills hope their experience will help other parents, and they want to share this advice:
Bill: To take one day at a time, you know, to not look too far in the future, because I think you start thinking about all the things that are going to be different.
Jen: There’s going to be days for the next 50 years that are hard, but there’s going to be so many more better days as time goes along. You will find that you have this wonderful little person that is just going to teach you so much, and that will find their way in the world.
Narrator 1: Camille smiles as she lays on her ladybug bed.