MOUNT DORA, Fla. – A Mount Dora boy started fourth grade this week and, for him, it was a week of many firsts.
Creed Pettit, 9, returned to Mount Dora Christian Academy on Tuesday and, for the first time, he doesn't need to sit next to his teacher to get extra help.
Creed was legally blind. He still uses eyeglasses on a daily basis, but he is now able to see things more clearly than ever before.
In March, Creed underwent a newly approved gene therapy called Luxturna. The procedure allowed him to regain the sight he had lost as a baby.
"I don't usually sit up in the front anymore," Creed said.
His teacher, Natalie Swearingen, said she was aware of Creed's vision issues, so she had prepared for them in the new school year. With the success from the surgery, however, Creed no longer needs special lighting in order to see.
"I'm totally honored to be able to be the first teacher to have him after his surgery," Swearingen said. "(It's special) to go from being pretty much told that he'll never be able to see or do all of these things, to now be sitting in this classroom, just like every other child."
News 6 first told Creed's story in October 2017. At the time, Luxturna had not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
On Oct. 10, 2017, News 6 visited Creed, who was then 8, at his Mount Dora home. He had already completed screenings to see if he qualified for the Luxturna treatment. For Creed, the possibility of the treatment becoming legal and accessible in the United States provided some hope that he might eventually regain his vision.
On Nov. 3, 2017, News 6 checked in with Creed again. This time, Luxturna had been approved by the FDA. Creed’s mother, Sarah Pettit, spoke about the reality of getting the surgery to cure Creed's blindness.
She said because of several factors, including his age, the family was still waiting for final word on the procedure. At this time, the family was told the surgery could cost $500,000 per eye and Creed needed both eyes to be done.
"I definitely feel that by this summer, we are going to be up there," Pettit said. "I really do. I've been told, 'Start saving,'" Pettit said. "You think of everything that is about to change.”
It was March 26, 2018 when Creed travelled to South Florida with his family to undergo the Luxturna treatment.
"I've wanted this for a long time," Sarah Pettit said. "And I think it's so neat to know that he now can sit with his peers and interact with them."
Pettit no longer sends Creed to school with lamps and extra flashlights that he used to need in order to complete tasks.
"He taught me (that) you need to never quit," Pettit said. "He is absolutely the biggest inspiration I will ever have."