By Conor McCue

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – After months of breathing tubes and intensive treatments, a 10-year-old hockey-enthusiast, battling a rare autoimmune disorder, is back home in Colorado Springs and skating again. In February, CBS4 reported on Shelby Otto’s situation and the outpouring of support from the hockey community.

(credit: Otto family)

On Sunday, she skated for the first time in five months, gaining new confidence with each stride. After countless health complications over a span of several months, it was a welcome return to the thing Shelby loves most.

“It felt normal and fun,” Shelby said.

“We don’t expect her to get back and playing competitive hockey and doing those things, just to see her getting back to doing something she loves to do,” said father, Craig Otto. “It gave her really another step forward towards her confidence and things she can and can’t do.”

(credit: CBS)

Shelby’s parents originally brought her to the hospital after she was continuing to exhibit flu-like symptoms. Eventually, doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora diagnosed her with juvenile dermatomyositis, a rare autoimmune disorder that typically causes weak muscles and skin rashes. Shelby’s symptoms and experience were much worse, so her treatment included low-grade chemotherapy, steroids, infusions, and a tracheotomy.

During her 3.5 month stay at the hospital, Shelby spent more than two months in the intensive care unit.

“At that moment we had no idea what was going on. Even now to this day, when I see her I’m still amazed,” said Craig.

Shelby’s goal of getting home comes with a big assist from the hockey community. For months, local teams and pro players sent countless letters of encouragement, as well as donated a total of $55,000 through a GoFundMe page.

With the donated money, Otto’s parents were able to cover her medical bills and set up a bank account to help pay for future treatment needs.

“A thousand dollars would have been amazing, so this is over and above what we could have even expected,” Craig said.

Shelby Otto (credit: Otto family)

While much better now, Shelby will manage the condition for the remainder of her life. According to her dad, she could go into remission, which would be the best circumstance.

Currently, Shelby remains immunocompromised, so the COVID-19 pandemic has her family taking extra precautions. For now, she rarely leaves home and a scheduled trip to the Disney resort in Hawaii, funded through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, has been put on hold.

“For her, getting out of the house is going up to Children’s Hospital up in Denver,” he said. “She gets her infusions every two weeks there.”

Maybe one day, Shelby will get back to skating with her team, the Monument-based Colorado Rampage. Until then, she and her family are thankful for each moment and the doctors who got her here.

“They’re really impressed with her activity and how far she’s come. They call her the miracle child, and we just grin and laugh and say, ‘It’s Shelby. That’s how she is,’” Craig said.

Conor McCue


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