Nine-year-old Zach has never met a stranger, especially if that new person is a Cyclones fan! With a contagious smile and a zest for life, Zach is energized by meeting new people, striking up conversations, and doling out high-fives to every Cyclone fan he meets across the country.
Born with Spina Bifida, Zach is paralyzed from the waist down and utilizes a manual wheelchair to get around. He has a large team of medical professionals who are all personally invested in seeing Zach thrive. From his pediatrician to his physical therapists to his neurosurgeon, “they all love him as if he was their own!” said Zach’s mom DeeAnn.
Zach has endured many surgeries and procedures in his short life. When he was three years old, Zach had major abdominal surgery. About two months after the surgery, he wasn’t feeling quite like himself. While at physical therapy one day, his physical therapist noticed a lump on his neck. She quickly called Zach’s pediatrician to have him seen that same day. The pediatrician knew something must be wrong with the shunt in Zach’s brain that he has had since shortly after birth. She immediately referred Zach to a neurosurgeon specialist out of state, and the family arrived just hours before a blizzard hit Central Iowa. Zach ended up having surgery the very next morning and was later diagnosed with a serious shunt infection. He ended up having three shunt surgeries and heavy IV antibiotics during his three-week stay in the hospital. Thanks to the quick action of his physical therapist, pediatrician, and neurosurgeon, Zach’s shunt infection was caught and treated before any long-term effects occurred.
Zach is currently an active 4th grader at Northwest Elementary in Ankeny. He participates in Miracle League baseball, horseback riding, plays the piano, and is an avid reader. Zach loves playing with Legos, video gaming with friends, attending ISU football games, and playing basketball in the backyard with friends or his dad Jason. He is aware of his physical limitations, but he works hard to overcome obstacles. When other children ask him why he is in a wheelchair, Zach keeps it simple: “Because my legs don’t work!”
Zach’s life has been filled with many challenges and obstacles. While at times it seemed daunting and humbling, Zach’s diagnosis has shifted his family’s focus outward to helping others. “Zach has given us a new perspective on our own obstacles,” said DeeAnn, “and a better appreciation for the challenges of others. We use our own experiences to guide other families facing similar obstacles.”
A lifelong ISU fan, Zach is looking forward to meeting the football players and seeing them in action up close! He can’t wait to cheer on the Cyclones and be a part of the gameday experience as he interacts with the players and coaches. Go Cyclones!