What do you want to be when you grow up? I don’t know for sure, but I think about being an architect or a researcher to find cures for things.
What’s your favorite food? Waffles with chocolate chips.
What’s your weird talent? I’m a really fast texter and typer.
Who inspires you and why? Probably my mom because she’s always with me.
Crystal Lake freshman Jessica Staples doesn’t let anything get in the way of her love of gymnastics. The 14-year-old spent two years away from her family to train in Cincinnati, qualified for the U.S. National Championships after breaking her foot midway through the competition and continues to go to the gym every day despite a stress fracture.
"I like balance beam the best," she says. "It’s always been one of my best events and I like trying to stay on. It’s a challenge."
On top of injuries and keeping up with school work, Jessica was diagnosed at age 10 with primary immune deficiency, an immune disease that makes her much more susceptible to infection.
"I remember when I was little I would get really bad sinus infections and I always had horrible headaches," Jessica recalls. "I had to get an IV PIC line and still went to gymnastics. I asked if I could do stuff with just one arm."
Her parents, however, were concerned and almost ended Jessica’s promising gymnastics career.
"We wanted to take her out of gymnastics and homeschool her," says mom Elaine. "We didn’t want anyone to hurt her. Thankfully her doctor said, ‘She’s 10. She can work the rest of her life around this. She can live with this.’ "
Jessica now gets four-hour IV treatments every 21 days to help keep infections under control. The treatments aren’t perfect, though—she begins to feel sick after about 15 days and the treatment itself makes her sick for a few days after she receives it.
"She’s terrified of needles and she could get a permanent port," says Elaine, who sits by her daughter’s side for every treatment, "but she would have to give up gymnastics."
While on a limited training schedule because of her stress fracture, Jessica has been able to have a somewhat normal freshman year in high school.
"I think this is the first year I’ve done a full day of school and gymnastics," she says. "I’ve been hanging out with my friends more."
When she’s given the all clear to begin normal training again, Jessica has big plans for her gymnastics career.
"I really want to make the national team," she says. "Then I’d like to get a college scholarship to go to the University of Michigan or another big school."
Do you know a great kid age 14 and under who’s done something amazing? E-mail names and information to [email protected]
Let us plan your weekend with the best family events and activities in Chicagoland.
Start the week right with deals, prizes, parent life hacks and more delivered straight to your inbox.
Need last-minute ideas for a weekend of family fun? No worries. We've got you.
Get the inside scoop on the people, places and things we are loving right now.
Resources, tips, inspiration and more for parents of children with special needs.
Score exclusive offers from our fabulous advertisers.