Ten-Year-Old Amputee Overcomes the Odds
Ten-year-old Deven Jackson has inspired his family, friends and community in Perry County and all across the nation. Life dealt him a hard hand and he took the fight.
In 2012 Deven was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and had both of his legs amputated below the knee. Once an all-star football player, Deven was now sitting the bench and about to begin a much greater battle than any he had on the field.
Deven’s mother, Michelle Jackson, said that their family had to “learn a new way to handle and adapt to life.” They had to change from a normal schedule of work and school to regular trips to Hershey Hospital and preparing to deal with the needs of a child with handicaps.
Bacterial meningitis can be devastating, and Deven suffered severe side effects. As the infection worsened, the rash on his skin continued to spread. He now has scars on his arms and legs. The summer following his diagnosis, Deven received his first prosthesis and began the long journey to recovery.
Life was now different for the Jackson family and everyday routines became a challenge. From showering to daily chores, Deven had to learn a new way to live. Deven used to walk down their rocky driveway to retrieve the newspaper each day. During his recovery he eventually was able to continue getting their newspaper. It was challenging, but "it was a way that he was able to bring normal back into his life," Deven said.
Deven thought he was never going to play football again, but his outlook changed when the Jackson family attended “Camp No Limits” in Florida. Everyone "began to have hope in Deven’s ability to live a normal life again," Michelle said.
Deven had a long way to go before running or playing football, but he was ready to do whatever it took. He had another setback because the bones in his thighs were continuing to grow and were breaking the skin, causing severe pain and discomfort. In April he had another surgery to shorten his bones and was able to move forward with hopes of running again.
That May, Deven received his first pair of carbon fiber running blades. This was a game changer for Deven. Remembering the first time he ran with the blades on, Deven felt the wind in his face and said “it felt like he gained his speed back.” But after having two years off from football, he was out of shape and wasn’t ready to play competitively.
Deven trained three days a week to increase his muscle strength, agility and balance with his new blades. His trainers told them they had no doubt he would play football again and that “they are going to train so hard that he would be so fast.”
After two years, this past fall Deven was cleared to be back in the game. Before Deven got sick "he was the fastest player on the field," Michelle said. She talks about the first time Deven was back on the field saying that, “it was awesome but it was also hard because he was the last kid and that just wasn’t Deven.”
Although the Jackson family has faced tragedy, they have continued to stay positive. Dave Jackson, Deven’s father, worked with the peewee football league and doctors to create running blades that would be safe for Deven and others. Michelle reflected on their experience and said that “life dealt us this hand and we have to make the best of it. You can’t be down and out about it or you’re really not going to get anywhere.”
Cheering for Deven
The Mustangs West Perry football team won the CFA Football League Championship this year. Being part of the best team in the league has been a huge encouragement and "was one of the best moments during this season," Deven said.