AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – A 10-year-old girl is in the pediatric intensive care unit at Children’s Hospital Colorado battling a rare autoimmune disorder, but she and her family aren’t alone.
Over the past few weeks, friends and strangers within the hockey community have stepped in to lift up the young, avid hockey player’s family.
As a fast, feisty player for the Monument-based Colorado Rampage, 10-year old Shelby Otto is no stranger to challenges – even when she’s playing with the boys.
“She’ll catch them. She can keep up with them and she’s a little hustler,” said Craig Otto, Shelby’s father.
Now, Shelby is in a grueling fight off the ice. According to her parents, Craig and Lisa Otto, it all started with flu-like symptoms. Eventually, the fatigue, soreness, and rashes escalated during a hockey game in Denver.
“She couldn’t move and parents were like, ‘what’s going on? She’s one of our best players,’” Craig Otto said.
Eventually, doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora diagnosed Shelby with Juvenile Dermatomyositis. The rare autoimmune disorder causes weak muscles and skin rashes, but Shelby experienced worse. Over the past few weeks her treatment has included low-grade chemotherapy, steroids, infusions, and a tracheotomy.
“Her case has just been everything all at once,” said Lisa Otto. “Any complication you can have with this disease, she’s pretty much had it.”
The Ottos have learned they aren’t in this fight alone. Over the past few weeks, the Colorado hockey community has donated almost $25,000 for Shelby’s treatment on a Gofundme page created by a family member. The list of donors is littered with local youth hockey teams wishing Shelby well.
On top of that, teams from all around the country have sent hundreds of letters, supportive team photos, and reminders that they’re playing for her. Kendall Coyne, a member of the U.S. Women’s National Hockey team also sent a signed photo with words of encouragement.
“They’re always supporting her, sending pictures,” said Craig Otto. “This morning I showed her (the letters), it was the first time I’ve seen her smile *
With all these assists, Shelby hopes to one day meet her goal of getting back on the ice.
“We’re just humbled by it,” said Lisa Otto. “We’re so grateful for it. It just gives her so much hope.”
According to Children’s Hospital Colorado, Juvenile Dermatomyositis affects just four out of every million children.
Shelby can go into remission, but will deal with the autoimmune disorder in some form for the rest of her life. Her treatment will include, at times, monthly infusions.