For the thousands of runners competing in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon this weekend, Mile 26 is about one thing: gutting out the final .2 miles. Dog-tired competitors who need a final boost can seek inspiration from AEP Ohio’s tent set up on the corner of West Long Street and Marconi Boulevard. It’s a celebration of AEP Ohio Patient Champion Lizzie Swartwout, a happy, hard-working 8-year-old who has been gutting out hearing issues ever since she was born.

Lizzie, a second grader at Scioto Ridge Elementary School in Powell, is thriving thanks to the two cochlear implants she received at an early age … and because of plenty of hard work, too.

Lizzie was diagnosed with hearing loss at birth and began wearing hearing aids at six months old. At age two her family noticed that her hearing was declining significantly and, because the hearing aids weren’t helping, she received her first cochlear implant when she was three. She received a second one when she was five.

With these cochlear implants – which send impulses directly to the auditory nerve and are carried straight to the brain, different from hearing aids that just make sounds louder – Lizzie’s communication has improved by leaps and bounds. Now in the second grade at Scioto Ridge Elementary School in Powell, Lizzie is thriving. She’s above average in her speech, vocabulary and enunciation and is doing very well academically. But according to Lizzie’s dad, Dan Swartwout, this success followed a long road.

“With cochlear implants you don’t just flip a switch and everything is OK. It was a lot of effort,” Dan says. “Lizzie is a really happy, vibrant kid. But she has had to work really hard.”

Dan says Lizzie has attended 143 speech therapy sessions. That includes many hours working with audiologists and sitting in an audiometric booth. She loves gymnastics, basketball and music … and she’s pushed herself in these areas, too.

“Lizzie works hard at tumbling. She works hard at dancing. She works hard at everything. It’s been an amazing journey to see all that she’s accomplished,” Dan says. “She’s a super upbeat, positive and kind child. And she has lots of friends. I know I’m her father and everyone is supposed to say this about their daughter, but I think I can honestly and objectively say that she has earned all that she’s achieved.”

Lizzie and her dad will tell jokes at the “Laughs for Lizzie” fundraising event on Thursday, Oct. 17.

Dan is looking forward to watching Lizzie enjoy the spotlight this weekend and receive lots of attention and high-fives from all the people at the marathon. But he says Lizzie doesn’t really care about that; she just wants to meet people and make new friends.

“She is just excited to be out there, cheering on the runners and talking to them,” Dan says. “I mean, she’s already said that what she wants most of all is to play a part in other kids’ lives and help with their hearing. Yes she really said that. That’s just the way she is.”

If You Go

‘Laughs for Lizzie’

Dan performs on stage with fellow comedians Dino Tripodis and Jason Banks in a show benefiting the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. (Lizzie will also get on stage and tell a few jokes. She even writes her own material!) 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17. $20. columbus.funnybone.com

Nationwide Children’s Marathon & 1/2 Marathon

Lizzie’s Cheer Station is a short walk from both the start and finish lines. It will be located at the AEP Plaza (far west side) at 1 Riverside Plaza on Sunday, Oct. 20. Suggested parking is at the 200 West Spring Street Garage or the AEP Building. columbusmarathon.com

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