Tuesday, June 18, 2013
By Steve Craig email@example.com
Opponents of Fryeburg Academy field hockey have seen orange for the past four years -- orange tape surrounding the goals, an orange ball replacing the standard white one, even orange shoelaces on the Fryeburg players.
Fryeburg Academy's Christina DiPietro, right, shown in a field hockey game at Yarmouth High, excels at the sport despite being legally blind. "I want to play the game that I love," she says, as her team embarks on the playoffs.
John Ewing/Staff Photographer
“You can’t not do the things that you love because of one disability or obstacle,” says Christina DiPietro, left, a field hockey player and downhill ski racer from North Conway, N.H., who is legally blind. “Everyone has obstacles. This just happens to be mine.”
It's done for an unidentified Fryeburg player who is visually impaired. Even closely watching a game, you might never be able to pick her out. But keep your eyes on senior center forward Christina DiPietro as she runs past, dodges defenders and, often, scores goals.
And consider this: DiPietro is legally blind.
"I wanted them to be just so shocked when they found out that she's the one that kicked their butts around the block and scored the goals and that's what Christina's always wanted," said Fryeburg Academy Coach Dede Frost. "One of the things that amazed me when Christina first came in was that she really didn't want anyone to treat her special. That's why I've never told anyone for the past four years.
"I didn't want them to identify her. I didn't want them to say, 'Oh, take it easy on No. 2 because she's blind.' "
Getting ready for the postseason, the Raiders finished the regular season with a 12-2 record and will play Cape Elizabeth on Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the Western B playoffs. DiPietro has scored nine goals, twice scoring three goals in one game.
"I want an equal playing field. I just want to do my best and then have everyone do their best," the 17-year-old DiPietro said. "I want to play the game that I love, like everybody else loves the game, without anyone saying, 'oh, that's too bad.' That's the only thing that I really don't like. ... I can honestly say I've accepted it. I always have. But when people feel bad for me, I'm just like, why? You don't have to."
AN EARLY DIAGNOSIS
Ann DiPietro said she saw strong clues her daughter had a vision problem when Christina was quite young. One day Christina would find an object with ease, but if it was moved she would not be able to locate it. She often bumped into and even tripped over furniture.
Once, inside a department store, when Christina let out a bloodcurdling scream for her mother while Ann was standing right next to her, all doubt was gone.
At age 4, Christina was diagnosed as having retinitis pigmentosa, also known as RP. She underwent a lengthy, sophisticated testing process at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at age 6 that verified the diagnosis and further identified DiPietro's specific condition.
There are well over a hundred varieties of RP, each with unique characteristics. All are hereditary and progressively damage the light-sensitive photoreceptor cells (rods and cones) of the retina, which are responsible for capturing images. About 1 in 4,000 people in the United States suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, and there is no cure for the condition. After Christina's diagnosis, two of Ann's brothers were also diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa.
In layman's terms, the rods provide peripheral and night vision, while cones provide the color and central vision.
"Her rods are gone," said Ann DiPietro, who, with her husband, Tim, has two daughters. The family lives in North Conway, N.H. "She has no night vision. That degeneration has been completed."
According to Dr. Scott Steidl, a retinal specialist with Eye Care Medical Group of Portland, most normal-sighted people have a visual field of approximately 180 degrees. Retinitis pigmentosa reduces the visual field to less than 20 degrees, which is a definition of legal blindness.
DiPietro's vision has been compared to looking at the world through a pair of drinking straws.
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click image to enlarge
Christina DiPietro gets a hug from her mom, Ann DiPietro, after Fryeburg’s game against Yarmouth late last month. Her daughter’s vision disorder was evident early in life, said Ann DiPietro, who said retinitis pigmentosa has already robbed Christina of her night vision. “That degeneration has been completed.”