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Apl.de.ap honored for saving babies from blindness

/ 12:40 AM March 27, 2016

LOS ANGELES—As premature babies fight for life, many of them also face the risk of losing their eyesight if they don’t get proper diagnosis and treatment.

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Apl.de.ap, the Filipino-American member of Grammy award-winning group The Black Eyed Peas, has partnered with one of the top children’s hospitals in the United States to help save these babies from blindness.

“I’m paying it forward,” Apl.de.ap, also known as Allan Pineda Lindo, told reporters yesterday after the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) honored him for supporting the hospital’s Vision Center and helping prevent blindness and improve eye care for children in the Philippines.

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The center unveiled Pineda’s spot on the hospital’s celebrity charity wall, making him the first Filipino to have his name emblazoned on the wall alongside top celebrity donors, including Grammy award-winning British singer Seal and the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team.

Pineda, who has an eye condition called nystagmus, is legally blind. Raised by an impoverished single mother in Angeles, Pampanga, he struggled with visual impairment throughout his childhood.

“I had difficulties going through school. I couldn’t see the blackboard,” he said. “Imagine being blind growing up in the Philippines. It’s ten times harder. So we really need to help these children.”

Staggering numbers

To help premature babies, Pineda’s Apl.de.ap Foundation International has partnered with distinguished pediatric eye surgeon Thomas Lee and his team of experts in the renowned Vision Center at CHLA.

Lee said two-thirds of premature babies in neonatal intensive care unit would have some form of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and face the risk of going blind. Of those, 10 percent will go blind if they’re not treated.

Eighth worldwide

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“The numbers are quite staggering, and it’s estimated that up to 20,000 children in the Philippines will be at risk per year,” Lee told reporters.

The Philippines ranks second in the number of premature births in Southeast Asia and eighth worldwide, statistics show.

Many hospitals and physicians in the Philippines lack the training to diagnose the disease afflicting premature babies who don’t have properly formed blood vessels in the retina, the eye’s innermost layer.

If not treated within 48 hours of diagnosis, the baby will become permanently blind.

Sonia Delen, chair of the Campaign for Filipino Children, Apl.de.ap Foundation International’s health initiative, said they have delivered the first retinal imaging system called RetCams to Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao Philippines in October 2015, and will soon deliver the second and third RetCams in 2016 to Iloilo and Pampanga hospitals, respectively. The RetCam is used to screen for ROP to prevent blindness.  Prior to the Campaign’s delivery of the RetCams, there were only four of its kind but all concentrated in Manila.  The Campaign is providing RetCams to these regional hospitals to help combat blindness caused by ROP.

Delen said their partner, the Philippine Academy of Ophthalmology, had trained more than 60 doctors in the screening, diagnosis and treatment of ROP.

The campaign estimates that training at least six to 10 medical practitioners in four hospitals will help save 4,380 babies from blindness caused by ROP every year.

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