April 18, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Klayton Hammer was born a fighter.

His mother, Jennifer, had an emergency C-section after it was discovered that her son was going to be born breach. Just two weeks later, newborn Klayton had a temperature of 104 degrees. Following a spinal tap at Immanuel Medical Center, Klayton went straight to Children’s Hospital with his mom.

“The emergency doctor at Children’s started him on two antibiotics and an anti-viral medication,” Jennifer says. “When we spoke to the infectious disease doctor, he told us that he had no idea why the emergency doctor had started Klayton on the anti-viral medicine, but that it was probably what saved his life.”

Only 18 days old, Klayton was diagnosed with encephalitis, stemming from the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). “He stopped breathing,” Jennifer recalls. “He was in the NICU for 30 days on a respirator. They were 80 percent sure he would never make it, and if he did, they said he’d probably have a trach [tracheotomy tube] or a feeding tube.”

Klayton began physical therapy at the age of 2 when he first began to sit up. At about 3 years old, he started working with the early intervention program through Omaha Public Schools. Physical and occupational therapists visited the house. By the age of 5, Klayton was walking with the help of a gait trainer. Now 10 years old, he’s involved in a slew of sports including baseball, soccer, basketball, and cheerleading. “He started playing when he was about 6 and didn’t have any interest,” Jennifer says with a laugh. “Now it’s like he just can’t get enough.”

Sports have benefited Klayton in quite a few ways over the last several years. “They’ve improved his motor skills, including balance and strength,” Jennifer says. “He has also been able to develop his social skills working with the other team members and coaches, and he’s has been able to establish some great friendships.”

When asked what his favorite sport to watch is, Klayton quickly responds, “Football.” His favorite team is, naturally, the Huskers, and his favorite player is Kenny Bell. Jennifer adds that Klayton once asked to grow out his hair like Bell.

It’s not all about sports though. Klayton’s favorite thing to do is go out to eat. He loves Old Chicago, Carlos O’Kelly’s, and Mama’s Pizza, to name a few. He also enjoys spending time with his cousin, Trae, seeing his Grandma and Papa, and going out to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm. “Klayton has always been a determined and outgoing little boy,” Jennifer says. “He will overcome his disabilities in everything that he does.”

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