Russell Elementary First Grader Defies Odds, Wins Bronze Medals at Transplant Games

Despite multiple health concerns, this Hazelwood student defied the odds to win two bronze medals at the Transplant of America Games in Michigan.

Deven Shelton, a first-grade student at , won bronze medals in the 50-meter dash and in the softball throw this summer at the Transplant Games of America in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  

Deven was born with a condition called ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency (OTC). It occurs when the liver lacks a certain enzyme to break apart protein and it causes ammonia levels in the blood to rise.

Too much ammonia in the blood can cause developmental delays and brain damage. After multiple hospital visits, Deven received a liver transplant when he was 18 months old.  

Margie Kold, a Special School District teacher, instructs Deven.  

“Deven’s been in the since he was 3,” she said. “He loves school. His favorite subject is reading. He loves read-alouds; he gets very excited when he knows we are going to have one. He is well-liked by his classmates and the kids love to include him in the activities they are doing.”  

He is non-verbal and uses a walker or a wheelchair to get around the halls at Russell. At Russell, Kold said Deven spends part of each school day in general education classes, including lunch and special area classes and part of them in special education classes.  

For the second consecutive year, Deven competed in the Transplant Games. This year, during the 50-meter dash, something unusual happened.  

Deven’s father Steven described the scene at the end of the 50-meter dash. A competitor, Joe Eitzel, a 10-year-old from Virginia, stopped short of the finish line during the race to cheer on Deven. Steven said Joe knew he could beat Deven and Joe knew it was likely that Deven would not finish any higher than fourth place and not receive a medal.

Joe forfeited the silver medal he would have won by stopping as well as the bronze, crossing the line only after Deven finished. Steven added that Joe, like Deven, had had a liver transplant due to OTC.

He knows what Deven has gone through and the two boys have bonded even though they live far apart.  

Deven’s parents made it clear that Deven is a people person and confirmed he enjoys school.  

“He loves to be around his peers and his friends; he gets excited,” his dad said.  

“He gets excited when you tell him the school bus is coming,” interjected his mother, Amanda.  

Steve said Deven loves listening to music, especially top 40 hits.  

“The more bass it has, the better he likes it,” said Amanda. “He knows just about every song on Z107.7.”  

“Deven is usually always happy,” said Steve.  

The Transplant Games of America are a multi-sport festival event to promote the need for organ and tissue donation. The purpose is to show the world that transplantation is a treatment that works.

According to Donate Life America, as of October 2011 there were 112,178 patients in the United States waiting for transplants, 61,767 multicultural patients, 1,746 pediatric patients, 28,665 organ transplants performed in 2010 and 14,510 organ donors in 2010.


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