FARGO — A Fargo family that once had to make four trips a year to Sioux Falls for special eye appointments no longer has to make the four-hour drive now that a specialist who is the only of his kind in North Dakota started working in the area.

Fifth grader Brynn Yokom likes to do things any other 11-year-old likes, like swimming, running, playing music and sewing. But from a young age, her eye condition has required frequent check-ups to make sure she can continue to do tasks that require visual precision like threading a needle or reading music notes on a page.

"(We go) at least four times a year to confirm that the correction is accurate because without accurate correction, her eyes cross and she has poor vision," explained Codi Yokom, Brynn's mother.

All of the activities Brynn enjoys used to be interrupted by trips out of town for appointments. The closest pediatric eye doctor her family could go to was 250 miles away in Sioux Falls and the trips ate up time, money and got in the way of school.

"We were taking time off of work; it was always at least an overnight stay," Codi recalled.

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Brynn had to make trips every couple of months up until April of this year, when Dr. Ahmed Kassem, a fellowship-trained pediatric ophthalmologist, started practicing at Sanford Health in Fargo. Kassem said there is a lot of demand for people with his training and experience in the area and that he sees a lot of patients from western North Dakota and even Montana.

Codi said it now only takes about two hours a day to go to an appointment and that it will help Brynn get back to spending time on things she enjoys.

"We did travel when we had to, but the fact that we can now do it in our community is easier," Yokom said.