When Jessie Arambul got an alarming call at work from her babysitter in June 2017, she had no idea how difficult the road ahead would be for her daughter, Aliyah.
The 3-year-old had been playing outside of her home in Pasco, Washington, when she came across one of her dad’s exercise bands and began stretching it. The band snapped back, hitting her right eye. Jessie initially assumed it was a minor injury. But in the following weeks, Aliyah nearly lost her eye.
“When we arrived at the eye doctor he glanced at her and stated ‘Oh, I didn’t know your daughter has 2 different colored eyes!’ She doesn’t,” Jessie wrote. What he’d really seen was Aliyah’s iris filled with blood.
The little girl was taken to Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland, Oregon, before transferring to the Casey Eye Institute. Two weeks later, she couldn’t see out of her eye. Thus began a long journey to recovery with multiple surgeries and an eye patch Aliyah had to wear for over two years.
Finally, in September, the time came for Aliyah to ditch the patch for good. So Jessie, a professional photographer, decided to celebrate the milestone with a photo shoot.
The now 5-year-old chose a pink, blue, and gold Wonder Woman costume for the occasion, because, she told her mom, she wanted to be portrayed as a superhero. The role couldn’t have been more fitting as Aliyah had endured the patch for four hours every day, totaling 2,646 hours — the number sewn onto her cape.
Aliyah hated wearing the patch and at times, begged her mom not to make her. But she knew she had to do it if she wanted to regain her eyesight. And finally, she peeled it off for the last time as Jessie captured the victorious moment.
“I got emotional because it’s been a long journey. That was the last time she took off her patch,” Jessie told GMA.
“It was hard not to lose hope,” she added. “Every time she had an extra step of another line of vision on that chart, it was such a relief.”
By the end of the shoot, Jessie says her daughter “had the biggest smile on her face.”
Now Aliyah hopes her photos will encourage others experiencing eye issues as well and show them they aren’t alone. But the little warrior is already inspiring everyone who’s seen her journey. Congratulations, Aliyah!
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