The next time someone tells you nothing good has ever come from social media, you could mention the 2011 Egyptian revolution that began on and grew in popularity on Facebook, leading to a gigantic shift in the cultural and political landscape of the nation once corrupt president Hosni Mubarek stepped down.
Or you could just talk about Rylee Taylor.
The 3-year-old Tennessee girl’s life was quite possibly saved last week after her mother uploaded a photo of Rylee to her Facebook page. The photo, a cute snapshot of the young girl sporting ribbons in her hair, showcased a strange sight — Rylee’s left eye was glowing. This wasn’t the typical red-eye glare that people can achieve in photos, either, but a frighteningly full yellow glow.
Rylee’s mother, Tara, was contacted by two friends after they saw the photo pop up on their news feeds. They told her to take Rylee in to a doctor immediately in order to check out her eyes, and once she did, Rylee was diagnosed with Coats’ disease, a rare disorder that causes vision loss in one eye. All because of something a pair of friends spotted on Facebook.
Coats’ disease is particularly dangerous because it can affect children aggressively and slowly take their entire eyesight away from them before either parent or child has any idea that something is wrong in the first place. As Dr. Jorge Calzada, optometrist at the Baptist Eye Clinic in Memphis where Rylee was taken, told Tennessee’s WREG, “The significant problem we have with children is that a child won’t say, ‘Mommy, I can’t see out of my right eye.’ It is usually caught in an expected way.”
Coats’ disease is characterized by abnormal blood vessels developing behind the actual eyeball. When these blood vessels break, the serum inside them can leak to the back of the eye, resulting in either partial or total loss of sight. Rylee is currently being treated for her Coats’ disease.
“If a parent is trying to catch something like Coats’ Disease, they should take their infant children in at five or six months old,” explains Dr. Sophia Barnes, O.D. at Vision Corner. “There is also a program called InfantSEE®, which is a great resource for parents. For refraction problems, it’s good to have children in for an eye exam by age three.”
What’s strange about this story isn’t how social media helped saved a young child, but how it’s not the first time that’s happened. As Medical Daily points out, Slate writer Deborah Copaken Kogan shared a photo of her son on Facebook with the caption: “Baby getting sicker. Eyes swollen shut. Fever rising. Penicillin not working. Might be scarlet fever. Or roseola. Or…???? Sigh.”
All it took was that bit of information for Kogan’s Facebook friends to contact her and urge her to bring her son, Leo, into a pediatrician immediately. He might be suffering from the auto-immune disorder Kawasaki disease, they said. As it turns out, they were absolutely right, and Leo was treated and released.
So, exactly how many lives has Facebook saved? There’s no way to know for sure. But we know of at least two, which is enough to admit that a whole lot of good can be done when people have the means to digitally connect with each other. You just have to keep your eyes open.