CHELSEA — Alexandra Hobbs dreams about seeing her daughters for the first time.
Hobbs, 28, lost her eyesight at three years old when her optic nerve was damaged after suffering domestic abuse from her teenage father. Now she is fundraising to get stem cell treatment she hopes could help restore her vision.
“I really want to see what my girls look like. I want to know what everyone else keeps telling me,” Hobbs told DNAinfo while she played with her one-year-old daughter, Faith, and three-year-old daughter, Destiny, at her Chelsea building for visually impaired tenants.
“I can feel it. I have a good sense, but nothing ever replaces being able to open your eyes and look into the eyes of someone who came from you.”
Hobbs is selling t-shirts designed by her husband, Elijah Hobbs, on the website Booster. She is trying to raise $10,000 to pay for treatment at the Stem Cell Rejuvenation Center in Arizona, along with travel and accommodation costs.
The treatment, which costs $7,100, will use stem cells taken from her own body and inject them behind her eye in an attempt to help repair damaged connective tissue, according to the patient coordinator at the clinic, Josh Lane.
Lane said the clinic has had some “positive results” with the treatment, but cautioned that someone with little to no vision should not expect to regain their full eyesight.
The doctors at the clinic are all licensed under Arizona’s Naturopathic Physicians Medical Board, which helps regulate practitioners of alternative medicine.
The Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved this type of stem cell treatment. It is currently conducting clinical trials and warns about taking a risk on unapproved procedures.
“Cells manufactured in large quantities outside their natural environment in the human body can become ineffective or dangerous and produce significant adverse effects, such as tumors, severe immune reactions, or growth of unwanted tissue,” an FDA spokeswoman said in an email.
“Even stem cells isolated from a person’s own tissue can present these risks when put into an area where they are not performing the same biological function that they were originally.”
Hobbs said she understands the risks.
“I’m prepared for the possibility of nothing happening because I’m already used to being in the dark,” she said.
“But I think what I will not be prepared for, what I’m worried about, is the rehabilitation that I’ll need if something does happen. If something does change dramatically.”
Of course, Hobbs has already overcome great trauma.
She remembers the last thing she saw before losing her vision.
Hobbs woke up in Our Lady of Mercy Medical Center after suffering the abuse. Her vision was going in and out.
She looked into the dark hallway outside her room and saw a small boy in the hallway staring down at a cockroach on the floor.
“He took his slipper and he stomped the roach and he picked his foot up and I saw there was a crushed roach underneath his slipper,” she said. “And my vision flickered off after that.”
Hobbs, whose legs were also broken during the abuse, spent six months in the hospital learning how to walk again and was then placed into foster care in Brooklyn.
Her biological father served six years in prison for the assault, according to state records.
“I would love a simple thing like running down the hall and chasing [my daughters],” Hobbs said. “Or something as simple as just walking with them down the street.
“I don’t know what things look like and I don’t know how to comprehend even walking across the street with my eyes open and having to be accountable to look.
“But I’ve been through a lot. I’m not afraid anymore.”