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Blind orphan gets fresh start with adoptive parents

PHILADELPHIA -- A little boy who started life blind and abandoned in a Chinese orphanage had his life turned around in Philadelphia, CBS station KYW-TV reports.

When 8-year-old Jon Paul easily navigates the ropes in his neighborhood park, that kind of free play is something nobody ever expected from the little boy who was blind for the first three years of his life.

"I think it's really incredible how far he's come," said Faye Corman.

She and Michael Corman, who live in nearby New Jersey, adopted Jon Paul from an orphanage in China five years ago. They felt they could help because Michael Corman is blind.

"I felt I could provide him with all the knowledge that I had acquired," Corman said. "I wanted to help him achieve his full potential."

Not knowing exactly what was wrong with Jon Paul's eyes, they turned to Wills Eye Hospital, where Dr. Alex Levin determined one eye was damaged beyond repair.

But there was hope for his left eye, where doctors found a cataract and other issues that theoretically could be fixed surgically. The problem was they didn't know what had caused the eye issues, so it would be risky.

"It was a complete unknown whether the surgery, which is difficult, complicated surgery that had some risks associated with it, would yield any vision at all," said Levin. "It was a difficult decision."

Complicating things, Jon Paul had no language skills and nothing was known about him or his background. But the risky surgery worked, and the day after he could see.

"It's really an incredible thing to see," said Levin. "He's a great kid who's blossomed in many ways. He's making unbelievable strides."

Jon Paul is in the second grade now, where his favorite subject is social studies.

"It's really been an emotional roller coaster ride, I would have to say," said Faye Corman. "He's done so well, and he's accomplished much more than we had anticipated."

That includes doing gymnastics in the New Jersey Special Olympics, where he won several medals.

"More than a pleasant surprise - it's a miracle," Michael Corman said.

He said he'll still teach his son about all the things visually impaired people can do.

In addition to learning to play the piano, Corman was the first blind person to graduate from Rutgers Law School in Camden, New Jersey. He's now focusing on helping Jon Paul, not with vision issues but with overcoming some developmental issues related to being abandoned in an orphanage.

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