Wedding joy for family

THEY say your wedding day is the happiest of your life - but for Ipswich couple Cathy Calthorpe and Chris Betts it will be an extra special occasion.

THEY say your wedding day is the happiest of your life - but for Ipswich couple Cathy Calthorpe and Chris Betts it will be an extra special occasion.

The sweethearts will be followed down the aisle by their daughter, Leah Calthorpe-Betts, who was born blind and underwent delicate eye surgery at just eight-weeks-old.

Having regained her sight, little Leah will be her parents' bridesmaid when they exchange their vows on her third birthday in November.

The wedding celebrations will mark the end of a tough few years for the family, of Frobisher Road, Gainsborough, who not only endured Leah's operations but also suffered the trauma of Mr Betts losing the sight in one eye in an horrific accident.

The 31-year-old was working as a caretaker in 2005 when a nail became embedded in his left eye. He had already been through 23 eye operations since his childhood after being born with cataracts, the condition which Leah was later also born with.

Sadly, despite three months of bed-rest, Mr Betts did not regain his vision and is now waiting for a final operation to straighten the affected eye.

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Miss Calthorpe, 24, said their daughter, whose condition was diagnosed at a day old, had been an unsettled baby but instantly improved after her operations when she could see her toys and her parents' faces.

The painstaking surgery was carried out at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, with Leah's eyes being operated on separately three weeks apart.

Miss Calthorpe said: “Leah had the most severe cataracts they had ever seen. She had to have lens implants and they said if she did not have them she would be permanently blind.

“She is fine now, she can see. She does use a patch to strengthen her left eye, it has got a slight squint and is weaker than her right eye but other than that she is just a normal little girl now.”

Miss Calthorpe said her daughter, who has a brother, Ben, four, with no eyesight problems, was already excited about being a bridesmaid and had chosen her dress.

The wedding will be at Ipswich Registry Office on November 7 followed by a reception at the town's Novotel. Miss Calthorpe, a former Copleston High School pupil, said: “We are really excited.”

Has your child overcome adversity? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Cataract fact file

n. A cataract is a lens which has become cloudy, which in turn stops light reaching the eye's retina making it difficult to see.

n. In newborn babies, a cataract denies the visual system the stimulation needed for normal development and if left untreated for as little as two months this can lead to permanent sight loss.

n. Cataracts present when a baby is born or shortly afterwards are known as congenital cataracts while those diagnosed in older babies or children are called developmental, infantile or juvenile cataracts.

n. Approximately 200 children in the UK are born with some form of congenital cataract every year. Around one fifth of these have a family history of the condition.

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