Meet Kid Captain: Shelby Rogers

About Shelby

Age: 16
Hometown: Fort Madison, Iowa
Game: Iowa at Penn State (10/8/11)

Whether it’s walking dogs at the shelter or serving free meals at local churches, Shelby Rogers is a young girl with a big heart. Thanks to doctors at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, who have twice performed life-saving surgery to repair her heart, Shelby can follow her passion of helping others.

Shelby was just a few months old when, suffering from pneumonia and congestive heart failure, her parents Marianne and John brought her to UI Children’s Hospital where doctors diagnosed a defective aortic valve. A few days later, they performed surgery to re-form Shelby’s own valve so that it would grow with her.

“The doctors and nurses were wonderful. They explained what they were going to do, and even drew pictures (of the procedure) for us,” says John. “We still have those pictures in her book,” adds Marianne.

Shelby had an active, happy childhood, although she was small for her age. She took dance, worked hard in school and was involved a dizzying array of extracurricular activities, including marching band, Key Club, and volunteer work. She and her big brother Darian, a junior at Coe College, share a love of the Hawkeyes, attending games together when she could fit them in her jam-packed schedule.

Two years ago, Shelby was diagnosed with Turner’s Syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes small stature and heart problems. That diagnosis answered the question of why she was the petite one in a tall family, but it didn’t slow her down.

The Rogers knew that Shelby would need additional heart surgery someday. Last year, when her heart murmur became pronounced, Shelby’s doctors found that she had an aortic aneurysm, a weakening or bulging in the major blood vessel. She needed surgery to repair her leaking aortic valve and aortic aneurysm and during a specialized procedure, the doctors replaced her aortic valve with her pulmonary valve and used donor tissue for a new pulmonary valve.

Shelby’s day-long surgery last October was understandably intense for the family. “This was an extremely traumatic experience for us,” says John. “It helped that every couple of hours a doctor or nurse would come update us on what was going on.”

But, the little girl with the big heart came through it with flying colors. She kept up with her schoolwork and was strong enough in March to join her marching band in New York City for the St. Patrick’s Day parade. “It was phenomenal. I know it’s a day at the office to them, but when it’s your child, there’s no way to say thank you,” says Marianne.

Big brother Darian wrote his sister’s nomination for Kid Captain. “I just wanted to give her something special,” he says, adding, “I couldn’t put into words how grateful I am. They saved her life.”

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