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Sunny days ahead for baby with glaucoma

Naperville resident Bridget Erickswith granddaughter Bri McNally.  |  Submitted

Naperville resident Bridget Erickson with granddaughter Bri McNally. | Submitted

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Childhood Glaucoma

Here’s what you should look for if you suspect a child of having glaucoma:

Unusually large eyes

Excessive tearing

Cloudy eyes

Light sensitivity

Source: Glaucoma Research Foundation

How to Donate to Baby Bri’s Surgery

Visit; in the “find a fundraiser” box enter: Baby Bri needs to see

Attend the fundraiser from 6 to 9 p.m. June 4 McNally’s Traditional Irish Pub in St. Charles

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Updated: July 3, 2012 12:45PM

A picnic in the park. A stroll on a sunny day. Most people take these summer pleasures for granted. But for Bridget Erickson of Naperville, they will be the makings of a celebration for her 11-month-old granddaughter and family — with the help of a premier surgeon and donations from the public.

Bridget “Bri” Erickson was diagnosed with infantile glaucoma at 4 months old. This eye condition causes her such pain and sensitivity to light that she spends her days indoors, windows covered. She can go outside only in sunglasses with a blanket draped over her face.

“She’s pretty much miserable,” says Bri’s mom, Katie Sexton, of Maple Park. “Even in the darkness she’s not comfortable. It’s not fun as a family, because we can’t go outside with her.”

But that will soon change thanks to a surgery Bri will undergo June 4 at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Sexton first noticed a difference in her daughter’s eyes when Bri was 3 months old. “I wasn’t exactly sure what was wrong,” she explains. So she sought out an eye doctor who diagnosed glaucoma.

One in 10,000 babies in the United States are born with glaucoma, a disease consisting of elevated pressure around the eye caused by incorrect development of the eye’s drainage canals. The buildup of fluid presses on the cornea and optic nerves. It often results in vision loss and, untreated, can lead to blindness.

There is no cure for glaucoma. Typical treatment for infantile glaucoma involves medication or surgery. Bri received both — with two surgeries to open the eye canals. And while these treatments have been successful in lowering the pressures in her eyes, she’s still far from where doctors would like her to be.

The next step is to place shunts to direct fluid away from Bri’s eyes. Because this surgery isn’t available in Illinois for someone so young, Bri’s family has to take her to Pittsburgh, where eye surgeon Dr. Ken Nischal will perform the surgery.

The costs for the procedure will total almost $30,000. Needing such a large amount of money in such a short period of time led the family to fund-raising — with surprising results.

“People we don’t even know have been donating,” Erickson says.

In addition to using you,
a free website for collecting medical expense donations, Erickson has organized a fund-raising event. McNally’s Traditional Irish Pub in St. Charles will host two guest bartenders, including Erikson, from 6 to 9 p.m. June 4.

Erickson and Sexton are hopeful — about the fund-raising and the surgery itself. They both see sunny days in Bri’s future.

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