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Madeline Gomez is a precocious little girl who also happens to be a truly amazing artist. She became something of a celebrity in the Southern California area—not only due to her talent. Her artistic gifts flow even though she is legally blind as a result of congenital glaucoma.
When Madeline was a 2-month old baby, Katherine and Severo took her in for a routine check-up. The pediatrician noticed "something wrong" with Madeline’s eye exam and referred the family to a specialist. An ophthalmologist diagnosed congenital glaucoma. Three days later, at the age of two months, Madeline underwent her first surgery.
Madeline was Katherine and Severo’s first child. They had waited four years to start a family. They planned and did everything by the book. Now they found themselves asking, "What did we do wrong?" And of course, they did nothing wrong.
The fact is one out of approximately 10,000 babies is born with glaucoma - one too many for families like the Gomez’s and the thousands of other families living with children who have glaucoma. Now, six years and sixteen surgeries later, despite all odds, Madeline continues to wow almost everyone she meets.
Katherine and Severo first began to notice Madeline’s artistic talent when she was very young. Returning from a family trip, Severo was surprised by a particularly well done figure Madeline had drawn. It was no great feat for a four or five year old but Madeline was only eighteen months. From there, she progressed to more complicated works, drawing things she had noticed during the day.
Her mom says she believes Madeline’s eyesight "is a part of her perception of the world interpreted through her artwork." She goes on, "She draws in a way that most people can’t, maybe because she can’t see a lot of the world around her. Madeline draws it in her mind and then through her little hands."
In fact, Katherine believes her daughter’s glaucoma actually contributes to her ability as an artist. "It really is amazing that she can create all these beautiful people, and she sees them in every color, shape, and size, and they’re always happy. It’s a wonderful place in Madeline’s world."
Madeline is home schooled; it became too difficult for her to function in a traditional classroom. She has two younger siblings, Gabriel, four, and Julia, two and a half, who think Madeline is a pretty neat big sister. Katherine believes that Madeline "takes more risks and is more adventurous because of her siblings." Katherine and Severo are also grateful for the learning experience Madeline is providing the two younger Gomez children. "Our kids are very accepting of people with disabilities, a lesson we could not put a price on."
The good news: Dr. Anne Coleman, with the Jules Stein Eye Institute in Los Angeles, Madeline’s doctor (and a member of GRF’s Scientific Advisory Committee), says that although anything can happen, she really doesn’t expect Madeline to go completely blind. She states, "Currently Madeline’s eye pressures and vision are stable."
When not drawing or painting, Madeline says she enjoys "writing little stories, playing outside and swinging so high that I can touch the trees. I like to look at pictures in books and paintings by artists. I like to read, play with my brother and sister, and play games with my Momma. I like to toast marshmallows in the fire with Daddy, hug my Teddy, dress my dolls, and play invisible."
Last reviewed on April 03, 2011