ASIDE from his musical accomplishments with Grammy award-winning group The Black Eyed Peas, Apl.de.ap is making his mark in the world by preventing premature Filipino babies from going blind.
Through the Apl.de.ap Foundation International’s Campaign for Filipino Children, The Black Eyed Peas member has partnered with the Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) to help treat and diagnose premature Filipino babies who develop retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
ROP is a rare eye condition that causes abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina from excessive oxygenation. If not tended to within 48 hours of birth, it could lead to blindness.
Last fall, the foundation delivered its first RetCams (retinal imaging systems to screen for ROP) to the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao.
For these efforts, CHLA recently honored Apl with a spotlight on the hospital’s celebrity charity wall, becoming the first Filipino to be recognized.
“[This issue] is close to my heart because I myself am legally blind. I know the difficulties of growing in the Philippines and with sight [problems], it is 10 times harder,” Apl said during the unveiling of his spot on the wall on Thursday, March 24. “It’s a privilege, it’s an honor to be part of this mission, and I feel like it’s only the beginning of this partnership.”
Apl.de.ap (whose real name is Allan Pineda Lindo) was raised in Angeles, Pampanga, before he was adopted and moved to Los Angeles to receive treatment for nystagmus, a condition that causes involuntary rapid eye movement. On top of having vibrating eyeballs, Apl is nearsighted and legally blind, which all contributed to hindrances to learning and self-esteem and confidence issues growing up.
Sonia Delen, chair of the Campaign for Filipino Children, shared the impact of delivering the RetCam to the Philippines.
“There [were] only four existing RetCams in the Philippines prior to the equipment we brought to Davao. It’s the fifth RetCam in the Philippines, for a population of 120 million,” Delen said. “There are at least 34 RetCams in California alone.”
Dr. Thomas Lee, division chief for the Vision Center at CHLA, added that the foundation has partnered with the Philippine Academy of Ophthalmology to train doctors to diagnose and treat ROP. So far over 60 doctors have undergone training.
“What makes this program so wonderful is that we’re going to leverage technology. All the technology that we have on our phones — the cameras and the video — can actually go into the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU),” Lee explained. “Once that RetCam is in the NICU, the doctors can treat and diagnose those children appropriately and what’s wonderful is that they can be taught remotely from doctors and experts in Manila, who can then see the training of other Filipino doctors in cities like Davao.”
About 30 percent of premature babies in the Philippines develop ROP each year, but by training at least six to 20 medical practitioners in each of the four partner hospitals the foundation has identified, 4,380 premature babies can be saved from the impairment, Lee told the Asian Journal.
Apl.de.ap Foundation International Executive Director Ted Benito and members of the foundation’s executive committee, Mel Avanzado, Robbie Fabian, Fritz Friedman and Audie Vergara were also present at the ceremony.
The foundation is on track to provide RetCams to hospitals in Iloilo and Pampanga later this year.
“[I]n the poverty stricken areas where our kababayans can’t afford to get diagnosed or have their eyes checked, this is definitely very important, especially in the outskirts of the Philippines…,”Apl said. (Christina M. Oriel / AJPress)