Sisters Overcome Physical Differences and Shine on the Track Field
Bayley, Bella and Beka are three dynamic sisters who stand out on the track field and don’t let their physical differences slow them down.
Last spring, the oldest of the three sisters, Bayley, was getting ready for her event at a community track meet. She noticed some girls from the other team whispering to one another and pointing at her prosthetic legs.
Bayley is 12 years old and wears prosthetics to walk and running blades when she’s racing. Bayley was born with a tibial deficiency, a condition making the tibia (shinbone) shorter than normal or missing, and resulting in a difference in the length of the child's legs. Bayley underwent amputations when she was younger, allowing her to wear prosthetics and walk more easily. She doesn’t let her condition hold her back.
“Those girls were curious, and Bayley walked right over to them,” said Bayley’s mother, Tamera. “She went over and introduced herself, let them get a good look at her running blades and asked them if they wanted to ask her any questions about her condition. That’s the kind of girl she is – always breaking down barriers.”
Bayley is a standout track athlete who competes in both adaptive and standard leagues. She also studies contemporary dance, ballet, aerial silks and hoop.
Bayley was adopted from China as a toddler and had her first limb surgery at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California when she was 4. Over the years, Bayley has been followed by a Shriners Hospital team led by orthopaedic surgeon Joel Lerman, M.D. According to Tamera, prosthetics specialist Michael Wadekamper has played an integral part in her care over the years, fitting Bayley for prosthetics as she grew taller.
“Thanks to all the experts at Shriners, Bayley has the confidence and physical ability to go out into the world and race track, study dance and live life to her fullest,” said Tamera.
Bayley comes from a remarkable family. She is one of 12 children, some adopted and some biological, all with a range of physical abilities. Three of her siblings are missing limbs and two have spina bifida – a birth defect where the spinal cord doesn’t develop properly.
Bayley’s younger sister, Bella, 11, was also adopted from China as a toddler. She was born with spina bifida and was unable to walk when she first came to the United States. Bella underwent spinal surgery at the Northern California Shriners Hospital when she was 2, and the results were incredible, according to Tamera.
“Typically, babies born with spina bifida receive surgery when they are only days old or before they are born,” said Tamera. “Shriners [Hospitals] operated on Bella to repair her spine when she was 2, and she was up and walking only six weeks later. The progress was amazing. And today she’s able to compete on the track field.”
Bella’s Shriners Hospitals team is led by medical director for the spina bifida program, Maya Evans, M.D. Bella has undergone six surgeries to date, and the Northern California Shriners Hospital's spina bifida team is managing her various neurological, orthopaedic, bowel and bladder needs.
“Dr. Evans and the spina bifida team at Shriners have been there for Bella, for all her needs,” said Tamera. “And Dr. Evans has a way of really connecting with Bella. She’s also very creative and doesn’t let any problem stand in her way.”
Another of Bayley’s sisters, Beka, is also a Shriners Hospitals patient. Beka is 9 and was also born with spina bifida. She was adopted as an infant and has also been followed by Dr. Evans and the Northern California Shriners Hospital spina bifida team over the course of her life. Beka uses a wheelchair for mobility, but doesn’t let that keep her off the track field. She loves competing on the track with her sisters and going on long runs with her dad.
“Beka is a great student and a fast little competitor in her race chair,” said Tamera. “She likes getting out with her dad, and she goes along at a good clip – 8-minute miles.”
These three sisters are an inspiration to the Shriners Hospitals for Children community both on and off the field. With support from their parents and dedicated medical teams, the girls don’t let their physical limitations hold them back.
“Shriners has been instrumental to helping the girls achieve their greatest potential,” said Tamara. “We are so grateful to everyone from the expert doctors, care managers and prosthesis team to the front desk staff for always supporting our family. Shriners has done so much to help our children live fulfilling lives.”
Bayley will continue to break down athletic and social barriers by not letting her limb differences define her. Today she wears lightning-green colored prosthetics and looks forward to being a seventh-grader. She is also very excited about cheering on her sisters at their next track meet.
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