Roncalli senior receives scholarship from Kiwanis of Indianapolis
Devon Belcher was a miracle baby. And rightly so. By the time he was 2 he had died and been resuscitated three times and had undergone two liver transplants.
Now 18, life for the Roncalli senior got off to a perilous start when his umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck at birth. Belcher was fortunate that he didn’t sustain any brain damage, but his intestines were devoid of oxygen for so long that they basically died.
After being born at St. Francis Hospital, Devon was transported to Riley Hospital for Children, where he spent nine months on a total parenteral nutrition feeding tube. His health wasn’t improving, and the TPN was causing his liver to fail. The hospital did not put him on a list for a transplant because he was not expected to live.
“Riley Hospital sent him home to die,” said mom Amanda Belcher. “They said he had less than two days to live and would be more comfortable at home.”
Well, Amanda was not ready to bury her son. The next day she took him to Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital. “They figured out what was wrong and put him on a referral list for a liver transplant,” which took place two months later at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Devon was in and out of the hospital for more than a year with complications, so he underwent a second transplant at the center when he was 2.
This time the outcome was favorable, and the liver did not respond negatively to TPN.
“The doctors told me that some livers are more susceptible to being harmed from TPN than others,” Amanda said. “They really don’t know why.”
But it was not clear sailing; there were close calls with infections, and Devon underwent more than 100 surgeries by the time he was 13. More than half of them occurred during the first two years of his life.
“I remember the last one,” he said. “It was when the port-a-cath feeding tube was removed from my chest.”
Devon was 5 before he began to show considerable improvement. While he was still really sick in the eyes of other people, Amanda viewed him as getting healthy. He still takes medications so his body won’t reject the liver.
Because his intestines don’t absorb nutrients the way they should, he has to consume about 6,000 calories daily. His favorite food is steak.
Devon, on growth hormones until he was 15, is still growing and is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 135 pounds. He is a manager for Roncalli’s football and basketball teams, opting to serve the squads in that manner because his doctors don’t want him to play contact sports, especially with an enlarged spleen.
“It was really cool to win the state tournament. That’s one of the neatest things that has happened to me. I love being a manager. The coaches treat me just like I am a team member,” said Devon, who has a 3.4 grade point average and will attend Ball State University, where he plans to be a manager for the football team. “It’s what I want to do for my career.”
He did manage to play in a few grade school basketball games for St. Mark when his stepdad was his coach. “My mom didn’t want me to shoot the ball or get to close to the action, but you know me, I had to,” he said.
Devon only told his best friend and his teachers about his medical history because he didn’t want people feeling sorry for him and treating him special. “I told my teachers because I wanted them to know why I sometimes had to use the bathroom frequently.”
Devon said his sister, Bailey, a junior at Roncalli, doesn’t treat him special because of what he has been through. “We fight like normal brothers and sisters, but we are always there for each other.”
But someone tipped off the Kiwanis Club of Indianapolis because the organization presented Devon with a $250 scholarship during its annual Abe Lincoln Awards Luncheon Feb. 17. He and other honorees were recognized for displaying a tremendous amount of resiliency in overcoming significant obstacles while achieving success in high school.
“I heard some touching stories,” said Devon, whose mother was proud to be in attendance.
“He got off to a rough start,” Amanda said, “and he’s not supposed to be here. But he came through it with flying colors.”