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
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.
|Kelley dreams of being
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...
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.
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
Adelle Vancil Tilton is a
professional writer covering Celebrity News for About.com. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. (c)Adelle
Vancil Tilton, November 20, 2001 (www.autism.about.com