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Making a center feel like home: one family’s story of thanks

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When one teacher went above and beyond to make sure Lyla was safe and accepted at her center, the Pinaud family couldn’t hold back their praise for the UPC Child Development Center at USC. Helen, Lyla’s teacher, noticed a few developmental hiccups in the six year old. Before long, Lyla was having surgery on both of her eyes. When she returned to her center, Helen was there to welcome her with open arms.

“I am so grateful to the teachers and staff who helped Lyla get used to her glasses, gave her antibiotic eye drops, made sure she was doing restricted activities during her post-op recovery,” said the Pinaud family. “And, most importantly, created a classroom environment in which not a single child ever teased my daughter or made her feel self-conscious about her visual impairment.”

Read the full letter below:

Dear Tricia and Jamie,

I just wanted to write about my wonderful experience with the entire team at CCLC UPC–and Teacher Helen in Polar Bears in particular–during a particularly difficult time for our family this past spring.

Helen is an excellent teacher, and most importantly, she cares deeply for the children is so incredibly attentive to their needs and changes. Shortly after my daughter, Lyla, joined the Polar Bears classroom, teacher Helen noticed that she always wanted to sit up front during story time. She mentioned it to us and we figured either Lyla was just very enthusiastic about the stories (which she is), or perhaps she needed to get her eyes checked. Our daughter had no other developmental delays and had always been a bookworm, so we ourselves never noticed a problem (nor had any of her caregivers or her pediatrician). But when I took her to the optometrist a little while later, we were told that Lyla had cataracts in both eyes and that she would need to get them surgically removed as soon as possible! We were also told that given the severity of the cataract in her right eye (she was practically blind), if it had gone unnoticed much longer she could have lost her eyesight permanently (the brain needs visual stimulation early on in order to develop connections with the visual cortex, which is why the preferred time to remove congenital cataracts is by 9 months of age – otherwise, those connections will stop forming altogether, leaving you irreversibly blind by the age of 6 or 7)!

I cannot tell you how grateful I am to teacher Helen for being so watchful and concerned about my daughter’s well-being. Had it not been for her intervention, it may have been months before we noticed there was a problem. Even Lyla’s surgeon was amazed at how functional and asymptomatic she was despite the severity of her visual impairment (compensating with her good eye, sight reading and enjoying “Where’s Waldo” type of books, never complaining about vision problems, etc.). Because time is of the essence when it comes to vision problems in infants, we truly feel Helen played an important role in helping us to save our daughter’s eyesight. It has been a long road to recovery, and we are still working on helping Lyla regain full vision, but it would have been so much harder had Helen not caught this problem when she did.

A final example of Helen’s great attentiveness: The day before Lyla’s second surgery, Helen noticed that she was walking a little funny and mentioned it to me. I thought maybe her shoes were getting tight but since she wasn’t complaining, I didn’t think much of it. The next morning as we were waiting for Lyla to be wheeled into the OR, we took off her socks and noticed she had an ingrown toenail that was swollen and red. When we showed it to the surgeon, he cancelled the surgery for fear that she would spread the infection to her eye after the operation. Again, this was another thing that we busy parents failed to notice on our own but that Helen immediately observed and warned us about.

I would also like to mention how thoughtful, supportive, and caring the entire CCLC UPC team was before and after Lyla’s surgeries, conveying their well wishes before the operations and helping Lyla readjust to school afterward. Helen and Marleen threw her a party and had her classmates sign a beautiful “Good luck and get well soon” banner. They also got her an amazing gift – a leotard, tutu, and ballet slippers, which Lyla loved. Center director Paula was also so kind as to get Lyla a gift, a tutu-wearing stuffed bunny: clearly all the teachers at CCLC know our daughter well!

I am so grateful to the teachers and staff who helped Lyla get used to her glasses, gave her antibiotic eye drops, made sure she was doing restricted activities during her post-op recovery, and **most importantly**, created a classroom environment in which not a single child ever teased my daughter or made her feel self-conscious about her visual impairment.

I wanted to share our family’s story with CCLC’s corporate office and express my deep gratitude to everyone at the UPC Center, and especially to Teacher Helen. I sincerely hope she gets the recognition she deserves for all the wonderful work she has done not just for our family but for all the families she has served. I could not have asked for my daughter to be in better hands during this very difficult time. We will never forget Helen, Marleen and the wonderful team of teachers and staff at USC UPC who have supported us so caringly before and ever since Lyla’s surgeries.

Sincerely,

Guilan and Fabien Pinaud