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The Daily Tar Heel

Resident May Face 2nd Blindness

After one surgery to restore his vision lost in an accident, a high school sophomore awaits another to help him keep his sight.

After one surgery to restore his vision lost in an accident, a high school sophomore awaits another to help him keep his sight.

By Erika Heyder

Staff Writer

A year after technologically advanced surgery gave him the gift of sight, Francisco, a soft-spoken high school sophomore, is slowly watching the miracle fade.

Today, Francisco is finding himself closer and closer to darkness, the way he lived his life for six years before science offered him the chance to see again.

Seven years ago, a young Francisco picked up a bottle of sulfuric acid while walking along a stream near his home. The bottle exploded in his face, leaving him completely blind.

Since the incident and even after the surgery, Francisco's life has revolved around struggle -- educationally and financially.

After his surgery, some elements to his day had to be reworked to accommodate his hectic schedule. Francisco's family decided to have him home-schooled by Carol Klein, a guidance counselor at Chapel Hill High School, where Francisco attended as a freshman despite vision problems.

Although a school day is rarely, if ever, normal for Francisco, he says he believes learning at home suits him better.

Klein, who works with Francisco and his family outside of her job as guidance counselor, said he performs better than he did in a school setting because he is receiving individualized instruction.

Although schoolwork is a daily tribulation for Francisco and his family, his life is further complicated by his weekly treatment in Nashville, Tenn. "Going to Nashville once a week makes school hard, but he is doing well in school despite having new challenges with his harder coursework," Klein said.

But the most hidden problem facing Francisco and his family is the financial burden of the treatments.

Last year, the family received community donations and grants that eased the burden. But the funds have been depleted, and imminent surgery and trips to Nashville are expensive.

Dr. Ming Wang, a surgeon at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, restored Francisco's vision last year with delicate surgery.

Wang still sees Francisco as a patient and said while he is psychologically doing well, he is suffering some eye trauma that is causing him to lose his sight.

Klein said she hopes funds will be found because the upcoming surgery is even more vital than the first one in putting Francisco back on the road to clear vision.

"This surgery means so much more, for he has now lived with good vision for a year, and for him to have his vision and then lose it again would be extremely difficult," she said.

Klein said all parties involved will keep working until Francisco's sight is restored. "Nobody can quit, and nobody will."

Wang said he and Francisco's family have done their best to keep him upbeat and hopeful. "The whole ordeal has really strengthened his family and teacher relationships. He's hanging in there and his family takes very good care of him."

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But Klein said Francisco has a positive attitude and simply accepts his latest loss of vision. "The Serenity Prayer encapsulates Francisco's attitude," she said.

Francisco said he feels fine despite his vision problems. "Last year it was fine because I could see, and now for me it's no different because I've been blind for six years before," he said. "I feel fine."

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