A 12-year-old girl with autism went blind after blood tests found no vitamin A deficiency.
Bella Mildon has the mental age of one year and like many children with autism, they only eat certain foods, including Marmite sandwiches, chips and water.
Her parents took her to the hospital four times in less than a week after Bella kept knocking on objects in their Somerset home.
But they claim doctors did not perform a blood test and the 12-year-old collapsed days later.
When she woke up, she had lost her sight due to a vitamin A deficiency.
Bella’s parents say if she had been tested a week earlier, she wouldn’t have lost her eyesight.
Bella Mildon, pictured on the left before going blind and on the right after losing her eyesight due to a vitamin A deficiency
Bella’s parents Sam and David (pictured with their daughter) are now campaigning for stricter testing procedures to prevent the same from happening to other kids
Bella’s parents Sam and David are now campaigning for stricter testing procedures to prevent the same from happening to other children.
They call for more comprehensive testing for autistic children with dietary restrictions.
What is Vitamin A and why does our body need it?
What is Vitamin A?
Vitamin A, also called retinol, has several important functions.
These include: helping your body’s natural defenses against disease and infection (the immune system) to work properly, helping to see in low light, and keeping the skin and mucous membranes of some parts of the body healthy, such as the nose.
Good sources of vitamin A include: cheese, eggs, fatty fish, fortified low-fat spreads, milk and yogurt, and liver and liver products such as pâté.
The body can also convert beta-carotene into retinol. Sources of beta-carotene include: spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes and red peppers, mango, papaya and apricots.
The amount of vitamin A that adults aged 19 to 64 need is: 700 µg per day for men, 600 µg per day for women.
Vitamin A deficiency
Vision changes are often the first noticeable sign of vitamin A deficiency.
You may find that you cannot see as well as at night, but you may also find that your eyes become dry and irritated quickly.
Sometimes people get dry hair, dry mouth, dry / itchy / bumpy skin, broken nails and more common infections in the beginning of a vitamin A deficiency.
If the vitamin A deficiency is severe or allowed to increase, serious problems can arise.
The most serious problem is permanent blindness.
Mrs. Mildon, 53, said, “What’s difficult is that Bella’s vision was her way of communicating. She has no communication and we are just starting from scratch.
‘It should never have happened. Even if they had taken the blood test a week earlier, she wouldn’t have gone blind. ‘
Advisory body NICE is revising its guidelines on dealing with nutritional deficiencies in children with autism.
The NHS regulatory agency is looking into Bella’s case to determine whether autistic children should be tested more to check for vitamin deficiencies.
“They are going to review the situation because of Bella’s case and we are over the moon,” added Ms. Mildon.
What can we do to make it a positive situation? All we can do is change the law for guidance. ‘
Bella’s parents, both full-time caregivers for their daughter, were concerned about her eyesight when she started bumping into objects on the weekend of January 23 and took her to the hospital several times the following week.
Ms Mildon told the BBC, ‘We knew something was up so we went in on Saturday. We then went back in on Monday and again on Wednesday and Thursday, and no blood test was done during that time. ‘
Bella collapsed in her bedroom on January 31 and received CPR from her father before being taken to hospital, where she was in intensive care for four days.
Mrs. Mildon said, “He found herself not breathing, all limp with her mouth open and her eyes rolled back into her head.
When she woke up, her eyes weren’t working properly and they told us she probably lost her eyesight. We finally brought her home, but we brought another Bella house, one that can’t see.
It should never have happened – even the neurologist and everyone said it was preventable if she had these blood tests before.
“She’s been on a restricted diet since she was five and in any of these years if she had this blood test they would have because this vitamin level has run out and something has been done about it.”
According to the BBCBella may be one of five children seen by Bristol Children’s Hospital in recent years who have lost their vision due to vitamin A deficiency.
Ms. Mildon added: ‘Bella collapsed and was in the hospital – when she woke up she was blind. We swore at the time – 6 weeks ago – that we should stop this as a child.
Autistic children often have eating disorders and limitations. Our daughter is blind and it seems irreversible. Currently, there are no guidelines for children on a restricted diet to have regular vitamin A tests.
“If this had been the case, our daughter wouldn’t be blind now.”
Bella was admitted to intensive care after collapsing. When she woke up, the 12-year-old had lost her sight
Paul Chrisp, director of the NICE Center for Guidelines, said: “We are currently consulting clinical experts as we review our guideline on the support and management of children under 19 with autism spectrum disorders.
“We asked these experts about the issue of nutritional deficiencies and restricted diets as part of this review and expect to share more information in the coming months once our initial consultation is complete.”
Dr. William Oldfield, Medical Director of University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, confirmed to the BBC that the hospital continued to provide care and treatment for Bella.
“More research is needed to better understand which patient groups are more at risk of developing nutritional deficiencies as a result of a restrictive diet, to further inform treatment and support where appropriate,” he added.