A miraculous recovery

Last year at this time, nine-year-old Ashtyn Carrier had a hard time even walking from house to house for Trick or Treating, after rehabilitating from a rare immune disorder called Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH).

Ashtyn Carrier
a vivacious Ashtyn Carrier proudly displays her first-place medal she won at the Regional Punt, Pass and Kick Contest in Bemidji last month.

Last year at this time, nine-year-old Ashtyn Carrier had a hard time even walking from house to house for Trick or Treating, after rehabilitating from a rare immune disorder called Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH).

But now a year later, she's winning Punt, Pass and Kicking regional titles.

It's quite the miraculous recovery Ashtyn has undergone since being diagnosed with HLH, but through sheer determination and a ton of heart, the third grader at Detroit Lakes Roosevelt Elementary School is on track to living a normal, happy and busy life.

Ashtyn and her younger brother Ethan each entered the Punt, Pass and Kick Contest sponsored by the DL Jaycees in early September, where both won their divisions and advanced to the regional contest in Bemidji, Sept. 24.

Although both Carrier siblings went into the Regional event wanting to win it, parents Matt and Kelly Carrier were just appreciative seeing Ashtyn out doing what all nine-year-olds should be doing -- having a good time playing something they love.


"It was never about winning for us, it was just special seeing her out there," Matt Carrier said. "You are just appreciative seeing her being able to compete like that after all she went through the last year."

Although it wasn't about winning at the Regionals, that's exactly what it came down to for Ashtyn, who won her age division and now is qualified to potentially compete at the Metrodome during a Minnesota Viking halftime show.

Only the top four competitors out of a five-state area will be chosen to compete at the Metrodome later this fall, giving Ashtyn a smaller chance to qualify, but that doesn't matter one iota to her father.

"There's always a chance and that's cool enough," Matt added. "If you would have asked us a year ago if she would win the Punt, Pass and Kick regional contest, we would have said that would have been miraculous."

That's exactly what Ashtyn's recovery time was after battling for her life during a rough time over a year ago.

Ashtyn's condition moved towards the worse in April of 2010. That's when doctors told Matt and Kelly their daughter had HLH, which affects one out of 1.2 million children.

She was put on a rigorous steroid and chemotherapy treatment regiment, which made her double in size, as she went from a slight, 55-pound little girl to 110 pounds.

"Her case was more extreme than normal," Matt said. "But even with all the extra weight she put on, she was active and still tried to walk and play. Her will was never taken away from her."


Ashtyn started receiving her treatments at the Cincinnati (Ohio) Children's Hospital, since that's where the only American doctor who specialized in HLH worked.

Last Halloween, Matt and Kelly took Ashtyn trick or treating in a Cincinnati suburb, where she was determined to walk up to the doors herself.

"We followed her with a wheelchair, just in case she got tired," Matt said. "She made it to six houses, before she literally just collapsed into the wheelchair."

Added Ashtyn about her trick or treating experience last year, "My feet really hurt and they got pretty numb."

Ashtyn was finally discharged from the hospital Sept. 17, 2010, where her recovery started in earnest at home and through physical therapy.

She grew more and more active as time went on and the big step came this past September, when she attended her first day of school for the first time in over a year.

"She actually missed the first week of school because she ran a fever, and she could have missed more, but Ashtyn was determined to go," Matt said.

"I think I just got so excited (to go back to school)," said Ashtyn of why she developed a fever on the first week of school.


The biggest concern for Ashtyn returning to school was the fact that her immune system was depleted after her treatments.

The least of the Carriers' concerns was of Ashtyn fitting back into school, since she is a social bug anyways.

She easily transitioned back into her school routine, which eventually led to her entering the Punt, Pass and Kick Contest.

After Ethan entered the contest, Matt asked Ashtyn if she wanted to try it out, and of course she jumped at the opportunity.

"We started practicing a little for the contest and Ashtyn would bug me every night to go out to the yard and practice," Matt said. "Both Ashtyn and Ethan won their divisions in the local competition, although there wasn't a lot of kids competing."

But Ashtyn's win at the Regionals verified that she is back to her old self, even though it was a little surprise when her name was called out to receive her gold medal.

"Ashtyn did look pretty relaxed out there and I saw a lot of confidence from her," said Matt about the Regions, which attracted over 100 kids. "I was watching Ethan go through his (routine) and when Ashtyn finished, I asked her how she did."

"I thought I did pretty good," Ashtyn answered.


Matt said she nailed all three tries, but the passing drill was a little more difficult for her, since her hands are smaller than normal due to the steroid treatments.

Also winning their Regional divisions were Braley Sgro and Blake Itzen of Detroit Lakes.

"We were waiting around during the awards ceremony and Ashtyn's division was one of the last ones announced," Matt said. "Sure enough, her name was called."

The DL contingent in Bemidji were shocked, but overjoyed for the little girl who overcame so much.

When asked how she felt going up to receive her first-place medal, Ashtyn simply responded, "Proud."

Matt said Ashtyn is very interested in sports, including basketball (which she is already signed up to play this winter) and football.

"She will be a Laker," Matt said of Ashtyn's future.

And having a future is something the Carriers are especially appreciative for Ashtyn, who looks to have a bright one in anything she chooses to do after overcoming a life-threatening disorder.


Ashtyn Carrier (wheelchair)
Ashtyn Carrier (wheelchair) and her mother Kelly sit and pose for a photo Oct. 25, 2010. Because of her steroid treatments, Ashtyn gained over 55 pounds, which since she has lost.

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