CAPITAL DISTRICT Debbie Bango didn’t expect her daughter to survive.
Mia Bango was born at 23 just weeks and was the length of a ballpoint pen. She weighed a mere 1 pound 6 ounces, making her one of the smallest preemies in the world in 1993, according to Bango. During eye surgery, she said her daughter technically died six times on the table, doctors bringing her back each time.
“There were only 10 in the world at the time that survived. She’s in a lot of medical books. She’s quite the miracle,” said Bango, who couldn’t touch her daughter for four months after her birth.
Mia didn’t escape her tumultuous infancy unscathed, though. When she was still in the neonatal unit at Albany Medical Center, she developed retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), which is when the retina detaches from the eye. Despite surgery, Mia is legally blind.
“I can see but after a certain distance everything gets blurry and when I take my glasses off it’s almost double everything,” said Mia. “It’s pretty difficult to put into words but at least I know I’m better off than actually blind. I’m thankful I got that little bit of sight.”
Mia hasn’t let her poor eyesight limit her. In fact, sometimes it pushes her to prove she’s no different than anyone else.
“It’s definitely different than being a kid with normal vision but honestly I don’t see myself as someone who was born with a disability, I don’t single myself out,” said Mia. “It was mainly my parents who helped me through this when I was growing up.”
Mia has already beaten the odds—she lived. But these days, she’s achieving more personal feats, though no less admirable.
She just finished her freshman year at Siena College and lived on campus in the dorms, a big step. She’s studying pre-law and hopes to help advocate for kids with disabilities.