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Release: Dec. 10, 1999

Accounts established to receive donations for boy who lost eyes to cancer

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Accounts have been set up at two area banks for donations to help the family of an 18-month-old boy whose eyes were surgically removed due to cancerous tumors.

On Dec. 3 University of Iowa Health Care specialists performed surgery on Jalen Howsare, son of Tom and Kristi Howsare of Solon, Iowa. Jalen had a severe, advanced case of bilateral retinoblastoma, or tumors in both eyes.

Accounts have been established at Solon State Bank and Hills Bank to help the Howsare family with their expenses. People may send donations to Solon State Bank, P.O. Box 129, Solon, Iowa 52333 or to Hills Bank, 1009 2nd St., Coralville, Iowa 52241 or any of the Hills Bank locations.

Several treatment options are available for advanced retinoblastoma but, in Jalen's case, the likelihood of salvaging good vision was low, according to H. Culver Boldt, M.D., UI associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences and a retina specialist.

"Aggressive attempts to salvage the eyes can sometimes allow a tumor to escape the eye, with potentially lethal consequences," Boldt said. "If the eyes are removed before the cancer spreads outside of the eye, the child is cured of retinoblastoma. After weighing the facts, Jalen's parents made the difficult decision to remove their child's eyes rather than risk the potentially severe consequences of treatment."

The three-hour surgery went well, and Jalen and his family are back home. Tests following the surgery have shown no signs of other cancers.

Bilateral retinoblastoma affects about one in 15,000 infants, Boldt said. The most frequent presenting symptoms of retinoblastoma are an abnormal pupil that looks white, sometimes only when the eye is looking in certain directions; strabismus (although retinoblastoma is actually a very rare cause of "crossed eyes," Boldt noted); or severe inflammation of the eye.

"This is the most severe case of retinoblastoma seen at the UI Hospitals and Clinics in decades," Boldt said. "I must commend Jalen's parents for their ability to overcome the devastating shock of Jalen's diagnosis, to rapidly assimilate information about retinoblastoma from me and other

specialists around the country, and to make such a difficult decision out of love for their child. They are the true heroes in this story."

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.