Healthy Tuesday: She’s one little miracle
Kalyn Peterson is one part miracle, one part constant motion at dance class.
The strawberry blonde 4-year old from Penn Valley bounced through a session in her pink tutu and leg warmers. From one end of the Penn Valley Academy of Dance studio to the other, she shimmied, hopped, ran, fell, picked herself up and smiled.
Tuesday is Kalyn’s dance class day – her favorite day of the week. Her mom, Heather Peterson, said Kalyn wakes each Tuesday talking of nothing else, wanting to get into one of her many dance outfits at the outset of the day even though class doesn’t meet until 3 p.m. Evenings are filled with ballerina books and impromptu at-home dance practice.
Peterson smiled with joy as Kalyn danced, recalling a time when her daughter wasn’t even supposed to walk.
Born with a congenital bone disease in Sacramento in 2006, Kalyn had no left hip socket, a severely bowed left femur and four toes on each foot. After 18 days, doctors told Peterson Kalyn would need her left leg amputated.
Refusing that prognosis, Peterson took her daughter to the Shriners Children’s Hospital in Sacramento, where doctors said they could save Kalyn’s leg with radical surgery. At 1, Kalyn went under the knife for the first time to mend her problems.
“Emotionally, I was drained,” Peterson said. “I was devastated to think of her problems. It was so hard when they put her under anesthesia, then to have a baby in body cast.”
Those months of recovery were miserable for Kalyn, who could only communicate her pain through her tears. The time was rough, as Peterson was a single mother at that point and hadn’t yet moved in with her boyfriend, who Kalyn now calls Dad.
Peterson quit her job as a social worker to care for her daughter, and depended on the free medical care given by the Shriners Children’s Hospital.
Because of her leg problems, Kalyn never learned to crawl, but that didn’t stop her from moving. After scooting and pulling herself up for a few months, Kalyn did something doctors said she wouldn’t ever do: walk.
“I cried my eyes out when she took her first steps,” Peterson said. “She doesn’t let anything stop her.”
Like Kalyn’s smile, Peterson said her daughter’s positive outlook and will are infectious.
“When she was born, I thought everything was so negative. I focused so much on her problems,” Peterson said. “But the more vocal she’s become, the more positivity I see. She’s just an amazing person. She’s a dream, the light of my life.”
When Kalyn goes to the Shriners hospital for checkups and procedures, she lights up the room. She directs her mother on where to park, where to walk in and where to go once they’re inside. The gregarious tot lines up in front of the x-ray machine, smiling even though the pictures are being snapped of Kalyn’s insides.
She can’t wait to see the other children, no matter their illness or ailment, Peterson said.
“She doesn’t see people that have special needs as having special needs,” Peterson said.
“She loves being around kids. She’ll walk in and start talking to them and ask them to play, even if they’re in their hospital bed. She’s so outgoing.”
It’s that easy nature with other children – after class she goes from child to child, finding out who will join her for ice cream afterward – that led her to dancing.
Peterson was petrified when she was at a woman’s house and another little girl talked about taking dance lessons, she recalled. But Kalyn became fixated on the subject, and she talked Peterson’s ear off about it until she started the class about four months ago.
“I wanted her in a little bubble. I didn’t want anything to hurt her,” Peterson said. “But she loves it.”
The happiness Kalyn has found despite the tremendous odds she faced have given her mother hope for the future. More surgeries will follow, and Kalyn’s growth could be stunted. But for a child who turned an amputation prognosis on its head, Kalyn has proven to her mother she can handle just about anything.
“Now to see her running and jumping around makes me so thankful for her,” Peterson said. “It’s absolutely changed my outlook.”
To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail email@example.com or call (530) 477-4239.
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