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Make-A-Wish grants beach vacation to Sewickley Township girl

Joe Napsha
| Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 9:15 p.m.
Elizabeth Dietz, 6, holds her Make-a-Wish bear. Recovering from brain surgery, she was granted a Florida beach vacation with her family by the foundation in April 2013.
Joe Napsha | The Times-Sun
Elizabeth Dietz, 6, holds her Make-a-Wish bear. Recovering from brain surgery, she was granted a Florida beach vacation with her family by the foundation in April 2013.

As Elizabeth Dietz of Sewickley Township was recovering this spring from brain surgery to reduce the number and intensity of seizures she had been suffering, the 6-year-old had a dream come true ­­— a trip to the beach.

Elizabeth, along with her parents, George and Angela Dietz, and 9-year-old brother, George III, went for a vacation to Clearwater Beach, Fla., in April, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Greater Pennsylvania and Southern West Virginia, which has its headquarters in Pittsburgh.

“They wanted her to have a lasting memory of something good,” Angela Dietz said.

Elizabeth's doctors at Children's Hospital recommended her to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Pittsburgh, so she could have her wish come true — spending time at the beach, Angela Dietz said. The family selected Clearwater along the Gulf of Mexico based on recommendations that it would be a nice place to visit.

Elizabeth said she loved seeing the dolphins and her brother liked the opportunity to go swimming.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation grants wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. Elizabeth was one of 42 Westmoreland County youngsters, ages 2 12 to 18, who received special wishes in 2012 through the program, said Ann Hohn, chief operating officer of the Make-A-Foundation in Pittsburgh.

The foundation granted 681 wishes last year and at any one time, there are 450 to 500 wishes pending. It has served more than 12,500 children in 57 Pennsylvania and 23 West Virginia counties in its 28-year history.

The bubbly black-haired Elizabeth, a kindergarten student at Mendon Elementary School in South Huntingdon, qualified for the program because she had brain surgery at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh on June 27, 2012, to remove 90 percent of a benign tumor in the frontal lobe of her brain.

The procedure was designed to stop the seizures — sometimes occurring multiple times in one day — that had tormented her for about two years, her mother said. She suffered from grand mal seizures and brain tumors are one of the causes of grand mal seizures.

Doctors at Children's Hospital tracked the growth of the tumor for 1 12 years as her seizures grew worse and were not abated by anti-seizure medication, Angela Dietz said.

Grand mal seizures can result in a loss of consciousness and the muscles suddenly contract and cause the person to fall down, according to the Mayo Clinic website. That phase tends to last about 10 to 20 seconds.

In another phase, muscles go into rhythmic contractions, alternately flexing and relaxing. Those convulsions usually last for less than two minutes.

George Dietz said there were times when his daughter was walking along and then have a seizure when she would simply fall down.

Elizabeth's seizures sometimes would last between 30 seconds and 90 seconds, Angela Dietz said.

Prior to having the golf ball-sized tumor removed, she underwent a craniotomy to map the brain and give surgeons an understanding of what was causing the seizures and where they were located.

The surgery left Elizabeth temporarily paralyzed on the right side of her body, Angela Dietz said. Through 10 months of physical and occupational therapy, she has regained use of arms and legs and lives a normal youngster's life, Angela Dietz said.

“She handled it better than we did,” George Dietz said of the medical procedures that her daughter endured.

The grand mal seizures that had wracked her body last year lessened to partial seizures and now have been reduced to “simple partial seizures,” that occur infrequently over a month, Angela Dietz said. Elizabeth still takes anti-seizure medications and hopes to be weaned off the medication within a month, Angela Dietz said.

“She is my miracle kid. She is doing much better. She is a new kid,” her mother said.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-836-5252.

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