A local cheerleading team is about to compete on the national stage. The Hamden Hurricanes Jr. Pee Wee team will be representing Connecticut at the Pop Warner Nationals in cheer and dance this December.
“It’s like a big, big deal,” said Hamden’s Janiyah Tolson. Not only are they going, but they earned a spot by winning regionals.
“I didn’t think we would ever get to make it, never mind go as regional champions,” said 10-year-old Maya DiMauro.
And if anyone knows nothing is a guarantee, it’s Maya. Less than six months ago, she wasn’t sure if she’d get to cheer again.
“Back in May she was complaining of eye pain and a headache,” said Maya’s mom, Margaret DiMauro. “Being the mom that I am, I just thought it was a typical headache. I gave her a Motrin and sent her to school.”
But those headaches were only the first indicator that something was seriously wrong.
“I closed one eye and I was like, why is it pitch black?” Maya is describing the moment her vision started to fade.
Dozens of tests, including a spinal tap, the DiMauro’s learned that was caused by a rare autoimmune disorder called Anti-MOG that was manifesting in inflammation of her optic nerve.
“When she entered the hospital, she couldn’t even sense light in her left eye,” said DiMauro. Maya spent 10 days in the hospital getting plasma treatments.
“When she left the hospital, her vision was back to 20/25 in her left eye.”
Now, to keep it that way, Maya’s new normal is bi-monthy plasma treatments to introduce good antibodies into her system. Each treatment takes about five hours. Those are the only days she’s not back to cheering full force.
“She comes here and she supports them and she laughs with them,” said DiMauro.
After all, that’s Maya’s favorite thing about being a cheerleader: cheering on her teammates.
DiMauro is also the Hamden Hurricanes Pee Wee cheer coach. Nationals takes place from December 7 to 14.