Swimming, bike-riding and playing in general are quintessential summer activities for children.
Ten-year-old Norwalk resident Marianne DeWitt wanted to partake this summer, but couldn't. It's not that the Main Street School fifth-grader had misbehaved far from it.
The cataracts she was born with, and the various complications she's suffered, prevented her from doing normal activities; even something as routine as sleeping on her back and keeping her head upright.
But, doctors recently gave DeWitt clearance to swim, bike ride and play.
Her reaction after hearing the news?
"It felt really good," DeWitt said while a slight smile creased her face.
Her mother, Anne, said Marianne had been repeatedly asking her doctor when she could participate in such activities and sleep on her back. Marianne still must sleep on her stomach, something she has been doing since the second week of June as a result of surgery to repair a detached retina.
For the last decade, Marianne has had to travel back and forth to the Cleveland Clinic, sometimes several times a week, sometimes once a month, for various reasons, ranging from surgery to check-ups.
Marianne suffers from bi-lateral congenital cataracts, meaning she was born with them, and has battled eye diseases her entire life, including glaucoma. She underwent six operations this summer on her right eye, with more to follow. Her medical costs are mounting and to help offset the bills, the family has planned a benefit spaghetti dinner. It will take place from noon to 4 p.m. Sept. 30 in the St. Paul Cafeteria, 31 Milan Ave., Norwalk. The dinner includes spaghetti, garlic bread, salad, choice of dessert and beverage for $5 per person, with dine in and carry-out available.
With contacts and glasses, Marianne can see out of left eye 20/80, but has no vision in her right eye, except for light. Anne Dewitt said her daughter's teachers have accommodated her with a magnifying glass and large print books. Marianne has missed just a few hours of school.
Anne said Cleveland Clinic staff give her daughter the "royal treatment," calling her princess and making sure her eye patches are pink like many girls, it is her favorite color.
Aside from her mostly closed right eye, Marianne seems like a normal, happy girl. In one picture, the girl with light brown hair sports a white dress, earrings, a headband and smiles serenely. As Marianne spoke with a reporter, she rested her back on her mother's shoulder.
How does Marianne get her mind off her vision problems? She said she thinks about hanging out with her friends.
"Especially me," 9-year-old Olivia Taylor enthusiastically chimed in as the two hugged.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Fundraiser for 10-year-old Marianne Dewitt of Norwalk
WHEN: 12 to 4 p.m. Sept. 30
WHERE: St. Paul cafeteria, 31 Milan Ave., Norwalk.
HOW MUCH: The dinner includes spaghetti, garlic bread, salad, choice of dessert and beverage for $5 per person, with dine in and carry-out available.
A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye. Looking through a cloudy lens is like trying to see through a frosty or fogged-up window. Clouded vision can make it more difficult to read, drive a car especially at night or see the expression on a friend's face. Cataracts commonly affect distance vision and cause problems with glare. They generally don't cause surface irritation or pain.
Clouding of the lens is a normal part of getting older. About half of Americans older than 65 have some degree of clouding of the lens. After age 75, as many as 70 percent of Americans have cataracts that are significant enough to impair their vision.
In some cases, congenital cataracts are mild and not visually significant, and these cases require no treatment. Moderate to severe cataracts that affect vision will require surgical cataract removal, followed by placement of an artificial intraocular lens.