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MIRACLE AS BLIND TOT TAKES HIS FIRST STEPS; Parents tell of their joy at progress by Jacob.

Byline: NICK BRAMHILL

THEY say Christmas is the time of miracles.

And that was exactly what the parents of a brave little baby, born with no eyes, thought when they saw their son take his first steps last weekend.

Little Jacob Nowak, 15 months, suffers from a rare condition called anophthalmia that left him without any eyeballs or optic nerves and facing six years of expensive surgery.

In August, Jacob, from Millstreet, Co Cork, started intensive physiotherapy treatment, which his parents hoped at best might give him an outside chance of crawling before Christmas.

But the tot has astonished both his parents and physiotherapist by going one better and taking his first steps.

His father Mariusz said yesterday: "Our physiotherapist has been superb and Jacob started crawling a month ago, which was far earlier than we could have ever dreamt of. Then a couple of days ago he took two or three steps on his own for the first time, holding on to the wall. He even said his first words.

"It's really been the greatest Christmas present we could ever have wished for."

Once Jacob starts walking freely, he will have to be taught to use a stick by a mobility instructor from the National Council for the Blind.

Mariusz added: "He's very close to walking on his own but he will have to use a little white stick to get around."

Meanwhile, Jacob has just undergone surgery in Germany where he travels every three months to get prosthetic eyes and socket extenders fitted into his head, to make sure his face and skull develop properly.

The expensive treatment at a specialist hospital is likely to cost more than EUR300,000 and last until Jacob is six.

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However, with no funding available from the HSE, Mariusz and his wife Wiola, from Poland, have been dependent on donations from the public.

The couple, both 29, who also have a six-year-old daughter Paula, said they have been touched by the generosity of the Irish public.

Mariusz said: "I'll never be able to thank Irish people enough for all the support they've given us.

"And seeing him crawl and take his first steps just wouldn't have happened without their wonderful support."

Anophthalmia is rare but the exact incidence is unknown. In a recent study in England, the prevalence of anophthalmia one per 10,000 births.

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FIGHTER Jacob Nowak, 15 months
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 14, 2010
Words:401
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