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Apl de ap honored for helping save preemies from blindness

LOS ANGELES – As premature babies fight for life, many of them also face the risk of losing their eyesight if they don’t get the proper diagnosis and treatment., the Filipino-American member of Grammy award-winning group The Black Eyed Peas, has partnered with one of the top children’s hospitals in the United States to help save these babies from blindness.

“I’m paying it forward,”, who was born Allan Pineda Lindo, told reporters Friday (Manila time) after the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) honored him for supporting the hospital’s Vision Center and helping prevent blindness and improve eye care for children in the Philippines.

The center unveiled Pineda’s spot on the hospital’s celebrity charity wall, making him the first Filipino to have his name emblazoned on the wall alongside top celebrity donors, including Grammy award-winning British singer Seal and the basketball team Los Angeles Clippers.


Pineda, who has an eye condition called nystagmus, is legally blind. Raised by an impoverished single mother in Angeles, Pampanga, he struggled with visual impairment throughout his childhood.

“I had difficulties going through school. I couldn’t see the blackboard,” he said. “Imagine being blind growing up in the Philippines. It’s ten times harder. So we really need to help these children.”

To help premature babies, Pineda’s Foundation International has partnered with distinguished pediatric eye surgeon, Thomas Lee, and his team of experts in the renowned Vision Center at CHLA.

Lee said two-thirds of premature babies in neonatal intensive care unit will have some form of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and face the risk of going blind. Of those, 10 percent will go blind if they’re not diagnosed and treated.

“The numbers are quite staggering, and it’s estimated that up to 20,000 children in the Philippines will be at risk per year,” Lee told reporters.
The Philippines ranks second in the number of premature births in Southeast Asia and eighth worldwide, statistics show.
Many hospitals and physicians in the Philippines lack the training to diagnose the disease afflicting premature babies who don’t have properly formed blood vessels in the retina, the eye’s innermost layer.

If not treated within 48 hours of diagnosis, the baby will become permanently blind.

Sonia Delen, chair of the Campaign for Filipino Children, Foundation International’s health initiative, said they have provided a retinal imaging system called RetCam to a Philippine hospital and will soon donate two more. The RetCam is used to screen for ROP to prevent blindness.

Delen said their partner, the Philippine Academy of Ophthalmology, has trained more than 60 doctors in the screening, diagnosis and treatment of ROP.

The campaign has estimated that training at least six to ten medical practitioners in four hospitals will help save approximately 4,380 babies from blindness caused by ROP every year.


Apl de Ap donates equipment to Davao hospital to help save infants from blindness

DAVAO CITY—“I am Apl de Ap and I am blind,” said the Filipino rapper of the Grammy Award-winning Black-Eyed Peas, as he turned over on Tuesday a retinal camera to the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) here, a medical equipment seen to boost the hospital’s capacity to diagnose Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), an eye condition which, if untreated within 48 hours, can cause blindness among newborn infants.

“I am legally blind that’s why this campaign is very close to my heart,” said Apl de Ap, spelled out Allan Pineda Lindo from Angeles, Pampanga, who in recent years had set up the “Apl de Ap Foundation” to embark upon giving education aid and addressing health care needs of Filipino children who can’t afford the services.

Stricken by an eye condition called nystagmus, Pineda who grew up impoverished under the care of his single mother, recalled the hard life of being visually-impaired.

“I had difficulties going to school,” said Pineda.

“I couldn’t excel as much as I wanted to because I couldn’t read the blackboard, I had to copy the notes from my classmates, and I always had to play catch up, ‘Anong nakasulat sa blackboard (what is being written on the board)?’” he recalled.

He said he once dreamt of being a nurse, but wondered, “How am I gonna administer the shots?” He also said he dreamt of being an architect but had to set that dream aside because he “can’t see very well.”


Nystagmus is an eye condition which causes involuntary movement of the eye that at times result to reduced or limited vision.

The Pampanga-born rapper recalled his life in the Philippines when he had to accompany his grandfather to harvest sugarcane or to plant camote in the farm, before he was sponsored to go to the US at age 14, and later gained fame as part of the Black-Eyed Peas.

“It was already hard enough growing up in the Philippines but imagine being blind, that’s 10 times harder,” he said. “That’s why, this is important for me because I want all the children in the Philippines to have equal opportunity in life, to pursue their dreams.”

The retinal camera, which is the first of its kind in Mindanao, is the first of the five cameras that the Apl de Ap Foundation plans to turn over to five regional hospital partners for the early detection of ROP, noted as one of the leading causes of blindness among premature children.

Launched two years ago, Apl de Ap’s Campaign for Filipino Children seeks to generate support not only for medical care but also addressed the education needs of children, building at least 30 schools in the different parts of the country, including ones in Zamboanga city, and the Typhoon “Yolanda”-ravaged Tacloban. It has also built music labs in the north.

“I was one of those children, I came from a humble beginning, and was given enough opportunity,” Pineda said.

“I was sponsored to go to the US and became a Black Eyed Peas, and now I’m paying it forward and helping other children like me,” he said.

At risk for ROP are newborn infants with birth weights of less than 1,500 grams, and a gestation age of 32 weeks, said Dr. Nicolo Paderna, a pediatric ophthalmologist at SPMC.

The Philippine Academy of Ophthalmologists (PAO) has chosen to turn over the equipment to the SPMC because of its capability to reach out to indigent patients in Mindanao.

“We looked at the data from all the prospective hospital partners, and realized the SPMC has a good residency training program for ophthalmology,” said Dr. Pearl Villalon, chair of the PAO.

“The assessment of your program is tops and good,” she said, “We also have several faculty on the ground to help the residents through the process of screening, so, that is the reason why we chose.”

The PAO is also eyeing regional hospitals in Western Visayas, Pampanga, and one in the Ilocos region for expansion outside of the National Capital Region.

Dr. Josephine Cadayona, head of the SPMC Ophthalmology Department, said SPMC and its extension hospital in Tagum, currently has 13 resident doctors who will all be training for ROP screening.

“It will surely go a long way for our indigent pediatric patients,” Cadayona said.

Physicians said it is emotionally taxing enough to care for a blind child, but the financial cost is also too high, it”s very hard for indigent families to cope, that it pays to prevent it at its early stage. They also said Pineda has helped raised the awareness of people about ROP.

“It is very important for me to give forward in helping out every Filipino,” said Pineda.