At 28 weeks pregnant, Mike and Brenda DesPlanques welcomed their son, Caleb, into the world. Due to his extreme prematurity, Caleb was taken to the NICU. When he was 1-week old, Caleb had to have his right foot amputated due to a blood clot in his leg. This was only the beginning of Caleb's uphill climb.
"There were several times when Caleb was in the NICU that we didn't think he would make it," Brenda said. "It was so hard. All we could do was wait and pray."
After seven long months in the NICU, Caleb was allowed to go home with his parents. Despite needing breathing assistance until he was 2 1/2-years old, Caleb began making progress. A fuzzy, stuffed bear, whom he fondly calls "Bear-Bear," helped Caleb push through this difficult time.
"He's held on to 'Bear-Bear' ever since he saw it, and he hasn't let go since," Mike said.
Caleb, now 6-years-old, and "Bear-Bear" continue to take on challenges together. Caleb attends therapy every other week, completing a three hour session of occupational, physical and speech therapy. Although he cannot speak yet, Caleb works on his communication skills as well as his mobility skills, getting more proficient with his walker each time. Because he has grown so much, Caleb is ready for a new prosthetic.
"We're all prepared," said Mike, proudly holding up the ISU-themed material that will go on the artificial limb.
Caleb does not let anything set him back. He has a passion for learning, country music and NASCAR racing. Caleb's bedroom is appropriately themed after Disney Pixar's "Cars" movie, and he always cheers for his favorite driver, Danika Patrick.
Even with everything he's experienced, Caleb remains happy and always has a big smile and wave ready for the people he meets.
"We've had hard times, but he brings such joy to our lives," said Brenda.