Eye surgery is a “second miracle” for Cedric Oden of Hoover
The first time Twyla Taylor saw her brother Cedric Oden, he was 17 months old and had a 10% chance of living.
“I remember coming home from work one day and going to his room and there was a baby with what looked like a billion hits to me,” Taylor said.
Oden was failing to thrive and had “a lot of life threatening health issues,” Taylor said. Her mother, Shelda Clarke Breedlove, was her private nurse trying to help the little baby survive. Finally, she made the choice to adopt him.
“She quit her job and brought him home because he needed 24-hour care,” Taylor said.
“She said, ‘I had to try,” “Taylor added.
Oden beat the odds and survived, and their family saw it as a miracle. When Oden, now 24, was diagnosed with degenerative eye disease in late 2017, he beat the odds a second time.
Taylor and Oden have been residents of Ross Bridge since 2007. Oden graduated from Hoover High School in 2011 with the help of “very supportive teachers.” Although Oden is not verbal, he has achieved a number of milestones doctors could not have predicted as a baby: he is fully mobile, can eat by mouth rather than a tube, and communicates through sign language and SMS.
Oden enjoys texting and watching TV, especially basketball, as well as his job at United Cerebral Palsy shredding paper and working with some of the machines.
“He loves the job, loves people,” Taylor said, to which Oden vigorously agreed.
In late 2017, Oden had a routine eye appointment and the doctor discovered something was wrong. Oden had previously had vision problems and Taylor said the family noticed one of his eyes stray on occasion. Other studies found that Oden suffered from keratoconus, a condition that causes the cornea to swell outward, leading to vision problems as it worsens over time.
“The fact that at age 24, a degenerative eye disease that would lead to blindness without any intervention,… that’s what worried us,” Taylor said. She added that the fact that the diagnosis was unrelated to Oden’s previous health issues made it all the more surprising.
“I think at first we were in a state of panic,” Taylor said.
Taylor said they were referred by UAB’s Callahan Eye Hospital to ophthalmologist Jack Parker, who specializes in surgeries for rare conditions such as keratoconus.
Oden underwent two surgeries in December 2017 and February 2018, to add a healthy corneal layer to the eye with more vision loss and “cross-link” his better eye. Cross-linking strengthens the cornea with a combination of vitamin called riboflavin and UV light.
“New structural bonds form in the cornea,” Parker said of the crosslinking procedure, which he described as relatively new to the United States.
The corneal layer added to one of Oden’s eyes also provides structural support, without the healing time and difficulties of a full corneal transplant, Parker said.
Taylor said their insurance would not cover the procedures, but Parker opted to do the surgery for free and contacted the International Retina Research Foundation and the Avedro Company to pay for equipment costs and hospital bills. Parker said he wanted to do the pro bono job because Oden is an “extremely nice guy” just like the rest of his family.
“It was truly an act of incredible generosity,” Parker said of the donations made on behalf of Oden.
“They just walked in and did a miracle for our family,” Taylor said. “He really had great support from other people who were interested in him doing well.”
It only took a few weeks for Oden to recover from each of the surgeries. He returned to his job, his hobbies, and spending time with the adoptive mother who saved his life.
“Surgery doesn’t reverse the disease, but it stops its progression,” Taylor said. “It could be 20 years, or maybe never, that he needed another procedure.”
As with her recovery as a baby, Taylor said their family viewed the circumstances of Oden’s surgery and recovery as divinely influenced.
“We think we have a second miracle with him,” Taylor said.