Hope
Courage
Determination
Compassion

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Volume V Issue XXXVII

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Seattle Washington USA

 

JUST LIKE ANY OTHER GIRL: KELLEY SPERRY KEEPS ON GOING

by ADELLEVANCILTILTON

kelley.jpg (7167 bytes)What makes a hero? For some people, heroism comes from an almost superhuman act of bravery. For others, heroism comes by virtue of their compassion for their fellow man. But for some, heroism simply comes from being. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview one such individual and her mother. Their family's story truly classifies them as "Everyday Heroes".

I first learned of 10 year old Kelley Sperry when I received the following email: "Our daughter's face is wasting away... and she keeps going... and going... She's wonderful!" This message caught my attention more than any other I've received in recent months, and I contacted the sender, who turned out to be Kelley's mother, Donna Sperry of suburban Denver, Colorado. In my correspondence with her, it became apparent that little Kelley was something special, and someone who could serve as an example to us all. In other words, an "Everyday Hero".

Kelley has a rare medical condition called Parry-Romberg Syndrome. This condition causes a deterioration of the muscles and soft tissue of the face, and in cases such as Kelley's, extreme pain and even stroke. Yet through all of this, Kelley Sperry keeps on going and going... Just like the Energizer Bunny. And it's this perseverance that helps to make Kelley someone special.

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Kelley dreams of being a cheerleader

An A and B student at her school, Kelley has the same dreams and aspirations that other girls her age have. She wants to dance... She wants to be pretty... She wants to be popular... and she wants to be a cheerleader. More about that wish later. At some point, this condition seems to burn out, but until that time, life is filled with doctor's appointments, pain medications, self doubts, and a 10 year old's worst nightmare... homework.

At age nine, Kelley finally received a name for what she knew was happening to her face. The name was Parry-Romberg Syndrome. Doctor after doctor had mis diagnosed what was happening. That's common in rare diseases. They saw physicians who didn't even know how to spell Parry-Romberg Syndrome, let alone how to treat it. Surgery was suggested, however her family chose not to pursue this option. Various pain medications were tried, to little or no avail. Instead of a "miracle cure," Kelly Sperry endured. She endured pain, awkward glances from strangers and the self-conscious doubts that go with a disfiguring condition such as Parry-Romberg.

Her family endures too. They endure the visits to physicians, the comments of others, the fear that Kelley will have another stroke, and the other stresses that this condition causes within the family. Often when a child is ill, the siblings suffer because of the extreme amount of time and attention paid to the illness. The Sperry family is no exception. But through it all, a strong mother and father guide the family in the right direction. Kelley's father, Jay, a paramedic, makes it a point to not only spend time with his "Kell Bell", but also with her brothers.

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After Kelley's story appeared in the "Rocky Mountain News", the family was inundated with messages of support, but none had more meaning than one from Karen Osborne, the parent of a student at Kelley's school. That message gave Kelley the chance to do what other little girls only dream of... to be a cheerleader. Osborne had arranged to have one of the Denver Bronco's cheer leaders visit Kelley. When she arrived, however, she wasn't alone. Five other Bronco's cheer leaders came along with her. They brought an official Broncos cheerleader uniform and an invitation to join them on the field for a Broncos game. While your message may not be as spectacular as the Denver Bronco's Cheerleaders, Kelley loves reading your comments and would love to hear from you. You can leave your message on the Rocky Mountain News Message Board or send it to me and I'll make sure she gets it.

Since the original story in the "Rocky Mountain News", Kelley has suffered a fifth stroke, but she's determined to keep on going. After all, she's an inspiration to everyone who hears her story. And isn't that the mark of a hero? In Kelley's eyes, however, her story can be summed up in this one sentence that Kelley left on the computer one morning: "KELLEY SPERRY IS JUST LIKE ANY OTHER GIRL...EXCEPT SHE HAS A DISEASE."

 

AdelleVancilTilton.gif (4009 bytes)Adelle Vancil Tilton is a professional writer covering Celebrity News for About.com. You can email her at celebritynews.guide@about.com. (c)Adelle Vancil Tilton, November 20, 2001 (www.autism.about.com) licensed to About.com, Inc. Used by permission of About.com, Inc., which can be found on the Web at www.about.com. All rights reserved.

(*Editor’s note: I highly encourage interested readers to read the original, in-depth story from the Rocky Mountain News at http://denver.rockymountainnews.com/kelly/. Be sure not to miss the outstanding features linked at the bottom of the story including Video Essays, About This Story, Photography, and Send Kelly a Message.)

 

Hope      Courage     Determination      Compassion
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