This article is reproduced from an issue of HealthNet Magazine, published 2008.
Delaney Kerby is driven by challenges. Despite her petite stature, 11-year old Delaney is big on facing challenges head-on. And her performance on the soccer field is a prime example.
“Delaney is an inspiration for the whole team,” said Adonia Roark, coach of The Blue Diamonds soccer team in Mesquite. “She’s my toughest player. She’s very strong-willed, very determined. I’m bad about using Delaney as an example. But I think if Delaney can do it, other team members can do it.”
Unlike her teammates, Delaney is an amputee who competitively runs the field and kicks with a prosthetic foot. Instead of allowing that difference to characterize her, Delaney is mostly defined by her mental toughness. But she didn’t develop mental toughness on the soccer field. She simply brought her inbred strength to the game.
Delaney’s challenges have run the gamut – from carving a competitive edge in soccer to finding ways to keep a flip-flop on her prosthetic foot. But her greatest challenge was surviving birth.
Delaney’s parents – Mark and Kim Kerby – married young and opted to put a family on hold until they stabilized their careers. Mark began working through the ranks at Mesquite Fire Department while Kim climbed the corporate ladder at Blockbuster. But when the couple were ready to start a family, nature wasn’t.
“We wanted to get on our own two feet before we brought kids into the world,” Kim said. “We didn’t know we had a [fertility] issue until we started trying to get pregnant. It wasn’t a severe issue. We did take Clomid, a mild infertility drug.”
Mark and Kim’s first child, Kaylee Elizabeth, was stillborn. Their second pregnancy resulted in triplets.
“We were excited that we were pregnant,” Kim said. “But later we experienced some complications and had to go into the hospital. And that was when they discovered that we were actually pregnant with triplets. Obviously after losing your first child, you’re scared to death to go through another pregnancy. Then to find out it was triplets, we were scared and excited at the same time.”
Kim began seeing a maternal fetal medicine specialist who closely tracked the pregnancy for complications.
“At 20 weeks, I started experiencing pre-term labor,” Kim said. “We were in and out of the hospital quite a bit. We were on bed rest. We were on constant monitoring. At 24 weeks, we were in the hospital again when Delaney’s water [sac] broke. So at that point, it was full-blown labor.”
In the C-section delivery, Delaney was born first and weighed in at 1 lb. 5-oz. Brothers Preston and Canyon – who each weighed 1 lb. 9 oz. – respectively followed. As soon as the three babies were stabilized, they were rushed to Baylor’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) where Delaney spent the next three months of her life.
“Come to find out, the root cause of the pre-term delivery was an e-coli infection in the amniotic fluid,” Kim said. “It’s a common bacteria found in your body. But it actually got in Delaney’s sac. And we were all very sick. I ran 104-degree temperature all week after the delivery. And each one of the babies was extremely ill. The severity of the issues with the babies though was development. Twenty-four and a half weeks wasn’t long enough for organ development. The boys just couldn’t survive. They both had extreme complications.”
Delaney developed a reaction to the umbilical catheter, which resulted in lack of circulation in her left leg.
“She got circulation back in most of her leg,” Mark said. “But she could never get it back in her foot. At one point, we thought she might actually lose the leg above the knee.”
Although all three micro premies were on high-frequency ventilators for respiratory complications, Canyon died on the fourth day; Preston died the following day; and doctors amputated Delaney’s foot five days later.
“They kept Delaney’s foot wrapped,” Mark said. “I went in one day and asked to see it and it was as black as coal. I said, ‘that’s necrotic. It’s dead tissue, so it’s not coming back.’ The surgeon later called us at home and confirmed what I suspected. So I gave my permission over the phone for him to amputate Delaney’s foot. I drove back to Baylor. And by the time I got there, they were rolling Delaney back into the NICU. And I lost it.”
“After what we had been through with both the boys, [the Baylor NICU staff and physicians] were bound and determined to help Delaney survive,” Kim added. “Delaney’s foot wasn’t any bigger than the end of my pinkie. But she was still very sick.”
A pediatric infectious disease doctor was called in to pinpoint the reason for Delaney’s ongoing infection. He identified the problem as a build-up of bacteria around the plastic in the central line that delivered meds to her tiny body. By temporarily removing the line and administering antibiotics, the infection cleared.
“Not only was she struggling to breathe and for her organs to function outside the womb, she was fighting the infection,” Kim said.
But much of Delaney’s progress in NICU can be best described as “one step forward and two steps back” because other issues continually cropped up. For example, she developed retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) – a condition that can cause blindness – which called for multiple weekly visits from a pediatric ophthalmologist.
So fighting ROP and lung development and learning how to suck, wallow and breathe at the same time was the challenge after we got rid of the infection,” Kim said. “So three months we spent in the NICU. And she came home weighing less than 4 lbs. And she was initially still on a heart and respiratory monitor.”
Until Delaney gained weight, Mark and Kim dressed her in doll-size clothes. And they had to special order diapers from Huggies that were small enough to fit a doll.
“I was a Fire Captain at the time at Fire Station 2,” Mark said. “Quite a while before we brought Delaney home, one of my firefighters, Mike Park, found out that they had to take Delaney’s foot. I came into work one day and Mike handed me a piece of paper. He said ‘take this paper to the social worker who helps you at the hospital. They’ll know what to do with it.’ I asked him what the paper was. He said, ‘my father-in-law is a Master Mason. And he’s already sponsored Delaney at Scottish Rite. They can take care of the needs on her foot.’”
“I didn’t really know what that meant,” Mark continued. “But I thanked Mike and took the paper to the social worker. And she said, ‘do you know what this means? This means that Delaney’s prosthetic needs will be taken care of until she’s 18 years old at no cost to you. And it’s the best place in the state of Texas that she can be taken care of.’ I can’t explain what a gift that was.”Unlike most amputees, Delaney learned to walk on a prosthetic foot and has no memory of ever having two feet. So limitations have never played a role in her life.
Since Delaney will be going into junior high in the fall, she’s already practicing for cheerleader tryouts. No doubt, she’ll put the same athleticism, passion and mental toughness into her cheerleading pursuit that she puts into soccer and life.
And that’s something to cheer about.
Since this article was published, Delaney has continued to rise above her challenges. Below are some recent photos of her in action. Congratulations Delaney on being an inspiration to all of us!
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