A six-year-old boy born without eyes is one of only 60 cases in the world and is subjected to cruel taunts from strangers
Christian Buchanan, from Woodbury, Tennessee, suffers from a Tessier facial cleft, which has just 60 known cases in medical history.
Since being born with large gaps in his face, Christian has required a feeding tube since he was just four days old and has endured seven reconstruction operations.
Despite the condition leaving the youngster unable to see, as well as affecting his learning and speech, his mother Lacey insists the disorder has not stopped Christian from living a full life.
She said: ‘Christian is a very typical little boy. He’s learning to read, he likes to wrestle with his little brother – all the things that any six-year-old would enjoy.’
Although the youngster, who is learning to play the violin and working towards an orange belt in karate, manages to get the most out of his life, he still endures cruel comments from strangers.
Lacey said: ‘I was unaware before Christian was born that there is this huge social stigma about being different, looking different, and most people didn’t know how to handle somebody with that type of difference.’
She is speaking out to raise awareness of disabilities in the hope of making people more accepting of those who look different.
Christian Buchanan was born with no eyes due to a condition that has just 60 known cases
His mother Lacey (pictured), who was shocked at the reactions to her son, is speaking out to raise awareness of disabilities in the hope of making others more accepting of people’s looks
Christian (pictured with his father Chris) has never seen after being born with the disorder
WHAT IS A TESSIER FACIAL CLEFT?
Tessier facial clefts involve the mouth, cheeks, eyes, ears forehead and hairline.
There are just 60 known cases in medical history.
Its cause is often unknown but may be genetic or due to traumatic injury during prenatal development.
Sufferers may experience underdeveloped eyes, abnormal skull development or an unusually small jaw.
Treatment varies according to severity.
Immediate therapy to aid with feeding and breathing issues is usually required.
If the eyes are affected, sufferers often require lubrication to prevent more serious conditions.
Surgery can help to repair clefts.
Source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
‘He has to navigate the world in the dark’
Speaking of her son’s disorder, Lacey told Barcroft TV: ‘Christian’s condition is called Tessier Cleft Lip and Palate, he has classifications three, four and five which include microphthalmia.
‘His condition was caused by amniotic banding syndrome. Fibrous bands can form in the womb and if they attach to the baby they cut off blood flow, so Christian’s banding happened to attach to his face.
‘The biggest way Christian’s condition affects his daily life is his vision impairment.
‘Because he is completely blind, he has to learn to navigate the world in the dark.
She said: ‘Our world is made for sighted people and he has to learn to live in it without the benefit of sight; we have to do things a little differently sometimes but its totally doable and he is doing it.’
‘Christian will have more surgeries in the future, that’s just the nature of this beast.’
Having never been able to see anything, Christian is forced to ‘navigate the world in the dark’
Lacey insists the disorder has not stopped her son from living the normal life of a six-year-old
She adds she was unaware of the stigma around disabilities until after Christian was born
‘That’s how I was born and I was born awesome’
Speaking of how people react to Christian, Lacey said: ‘Just recently we had an issue, we were in a store and Christian was playing with a little toy in the shelf and a lady walked by and said, “eww”.
‘He has heard people making certain comments. He hears kids say things like “Why does he look like that? What’s wrong with his eyes?”
‘I have always answered children in a very, positive, upbeat tone and I will say things like, “Oh, that’s just how Christian was born”.
‘And they will say, “Why does he have red eyes?” I will say, “That’s just how he was made. Yeah, he has got red eyes, you know, it’s cool”.
‘He’s learnt over the course of a couple of weeks to say, “Oh, that’s just how god made me” [and] “That’s how I was born and I was born awesome”. I give him some scripts to say.’
Lacey, who wishes to raise awareness of disabilities, added: ‘I want to share my family’s story to raise awareness for disabilities in general and specifically facial differences.
‘I want do away with those preconceived notions that people have about what it means to have a disability, what it means to have a facial difference and I hope that I’m fostering an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding and respect for differences so that the world will just be a better place for Christian one day.’
Christian, who has already endured seven surgeries, will require more operations in the future
Although Christian has to live his life differently to others, Lacey says he is very confident
Christian (pictured at a graduation ceremony) attends a special learning centre once a week
Like any six-year-old, Christian enjoys wrestling with his younger brother Chandler (pictured)
‘He’s curious and he wants to explore the world’
Christian is home-schooled and attends Special Kids Therapy & Nursing Centre, in Murfreesboro, once a week where he learns a variety of everyday skills.
Lacey said: ‘In occupational therapy right now he is dressing himself. He just mastered taking shoes off and on.
‘[He is also] doing a Lego class, US geography class and creative writing.
‘And he is with peers his age and they are all good friends and it has really boosted him socially to help him interact with his peers a lot better.
‘I would definitely describe Christian as independent. I remember a few years ago he started saying, “I want to do it all by myself mummy”.
‘He’s curious and he wants to explore the world and he’s not afraid to do it.’
For years, Christian has been telling his mother he wants to be able to do things by himself
Lacey (pictured with her husband and sons) says adapting around Christian is ‘totally doable’
As well as learning to play the violin, Christian is working towards an orange belt in karate