Whenever they are out and about, this mom receives compliments on her little girl’s big, beautiful eyes. While she appreciates the sentiment, she always feels somewhat conflicted about it. This is because her daughter’s eyes are like this due to a condition that she has: Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome. Her only hope is that no matter what, her daughter always knows how beautiful she is.
Little Girl’s Big, Beautiful Eyes Due To Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome
Mehlani Martinez is a little girl in the UK with eyes so big and beautiful that they often catch people’s attention when she’s out and about with her mom, Karina. Her mother, however, feels somewhat conflicted about the compliments. After all, Melhani’s eyes are this way because she has Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome. This is a rare condition that affects the development of the eyes. Her doctors diagnosed her when she was just a week old. (1)
What Is Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome?
Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome is a condition that primarily affects the eyes. However, it can affect other parts of the body, as well. Typically it involves developmental differences of the front part of the eye. The iris can be thin and underdeveloped, which is the colored part of the eye. It can also affect the pupil, either in that the hole through which light passes through is off-center or that there are multiple holes, which look like having multiple pupils. Either way, this causes visions. (2)
Often it is accompanied by glaucoma. This condition is quite serious and causes increased pressure inside the eye. It can cause vision loss and blindness. Unfortunately for little Mehlani, her Axenfeld-Rieger Syndrome is in combination with Glaucoma. Thankfully, she has not yet suffered from any vision loss. She does, however, have to wear sunglasses when outside always because Glaucoma can often make one’s eyes more sensitive to the sun.
Sometimes with this condition, people can have problems with their teeth. They can have smaller than normal teeth or fewer teeth than they should. They can also have extra folds of skin around their belly button, heart defects, and other problems. (3)
Overwhelmed By The Kindness of Strangers
As Karina already said, she often feels strange when strangers compliment her little girl. Yes, Mehlani is beautiful, but she never knows whether she should mention her defect or if she should just accept the compliment and continue. She says she only hopes that Mehlani will always know how beautiful she is. Karina says she has concerns about when the little girl starts school. What will the other kids say? Will they be kind, or will they be mean because Mehlani looks a bit different than them.
“Maybe kids will call her mean names,” said Martinez. “There are kids that she’s played with who’ve mentioned, ‘Oh my gosh, mom, her eyes are so big.'”
So far, Mehlani is too young to really understand and doesn’t know that anything is wrong with her eyes. Naturally, she will learn this as she gets older. Since Karina tweeted about her mixed feelings about the compliments of strangers, she has been filled with a new hope for her daughter. She says she has been completely overwhelmed by the positive comments and messages she has received. Other parents who also have children with the same condition have reached out privately to offer support, advice, and to let her know that if she has any questions to please just ask.
Our Differences Are What Make Us Beautiful
Karina says that the love and support she has received from total strangers since her tweet went viral has helped to remind her that there are good people in the world who think that our differences are beautiful. She says that her only goal is to make sure that Melhani feels beautiful, loved, and that her differences are special. Even if other people are unkind.
“I’ll just remind her — I already do — how beautiful she is,” Karina said. “I’ll just tell her God made her that way for a reason. Everybody has something that makes them different.”
Melhani’s story is a good reminder for us all to celebrate what makes us different and be kind to others. You never know what is happening in other people’s lives so we should be gracious to all with our words and actions.
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- “This Little Girl’s Big, Beautiful Eyes Are Due To A Rare Genetic Syndrome.” Buzz Feed News. Lauren Strapagiel. September 17, 2018.
- “Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome.” Medline Plus
- “Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome.” Rare Diseases