Dancers dancing to help Sofia’s sight

Sofia Lampson - courtesy Annette Lampson
Sofia Lampson
— image credit: courtesy Annette Lampson

Life’s sunny side shines through Sofia Lampson, especially when she’s Highland dancing.

“Whenever I hear the music, my legs want to dance,” said the Celtic Rhythm student ready for Saturday’s big Cowichan Theatre recital. “I like dance because it’s fast; I like doing fast things, and moving.”

But seeing motion and more isn’t easy for the energetic eight-year-old getting costly treatments for degenerative retinitis pigmentosa – often called RP, or tunnel vision.

So her family and dance school are asking Cowichanians to help fund Lampson’s expensive treatments.

A silent-auction Fundraiser For Sofia’s Sight happens after Saturday’s 7 p.m. show. Treatments could cost $15,000 in the next few years. The Lampsons find them effective, but they are not endorsed by the Canadian medical establishment and not covered by B.C.’s health care.

“Mainstream medicine hasn’t any possibility of curing it,” said Lampson’s mom, Annette. “The only thing they can do is monitor how it’s progressing. A specialist in Victoria said they can do something with genetic medicine, but that’s years down the road.”

However, the Lampsons heard of  treatments by Chinese-medicine practitioner Dr. Weidong Yu of Vancouver’s Wellspring Clinic.

“He specializes in RP. People come from all over the world because Dr. Yu helps them so much,” said Annette, noting acupuncture could be a future option. “He thinks he can cure Sofia, so she has full vision in two years.”

That hope is steeped in a gritty, cinnamon tea Lampson drinks, gaining better sight almost immediately.

“He always mixes a different one and tests me to see if (vision) has gotten better; if it’s worse he tries another tea,” Lampson said of Yu’s secret blend, chased by chart reading and other exercises. “If it really does help, he gives me the same kind.”

But the taste of the tea basically stays the same.

“It’s not very pleasant because it’s powdery. Holding my nose doesn’t really help; I’ve tried it,” she said. “I love cinnamon, but it’s not only cinnamon and it makes my tongue feel weird. I take it with juice, which helps, and my mom mixes other medicine in there.”

Lampson knows she’ll go blind without the treatments every three months, Annette explained.

“It’s very expensive, but well worth it.”

Her daughter’s condition “came on gradually, and she’d been managing so well no one noticed.”

Until one day last September.

“I realized Sofia couldn’t see something right next her. She thought everyone saw like that. It’s basically like looking through a four-inch tube. She has no peripheral vision.”

“But my centre vision is very good,” noted Lampson, making light of her optical handicap.

“It’s kind of a help that I can’t see (other dancers) very well because in competitions some people have different steps than you, so you have to concentrate on your own.”

“I don’t like to think my eyes aren’t normal,” Lampson said. “I try to forget about it, and it just pops back up.”

Make donations to Sofia’s Sight at the ticket centre until 7 p.m. Saturday, or call Hogg at 250-710-3917, or Florie Varga at 250-748-1320.

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