This family is amazing. You just gotta root for them even if you're a Bear backer. Right TT?
http://www.contracostatimes.com/search/ ... atimes.com
Toby Gerhart's sister, Stanford softball pitcher Teagan Gerhart, has an amazing success story of her own
By Mark Emmons
Toby Gerhart, who came within a whisker of winning the Heisman Trophy as college football's best player this past season, isn't even the most remarkable Gerhart at Stanford.
That distinction belongs to his sister Teagan, a freshman on the Cardinal softball team. Following Toby's lead as a standout in both the classroom and on the field, Teagan traveled a more difficult path.
One of triplets born five weeks premature, Teagan endured 17 surgeries as a child to correct a cleft palate, severe hearing loss and a congenital birthmark on her face.
Then at age 12, on the eve of a complicated procedure that would remove the last traces of her birthmark, Teagan made a decision.
I'm happy with who I am.
"I was teased when I was younger, and then later, little kids always would look at me weird," Teagan, 19, said. "But I feel that everything I've been through provided me with a sense of reality about who I really was. I learned to make the most of it."
And more. She graduated second in her Norco High School class in Southern California — the valedictorian was her sister Kelsey — and developed into a highly recruited pitcher who is expected to make an immediate impact this spring.
Teagan, while naturally shy, speaks without a hint of self-consciousness about the operations she had and the one she didn't — and how they have shaped her life.
She also mentions a plaque in her dorm room. It reads: "Determination
is the will to overcome adversity."
"The whole Gerhart family is something," Stanford softball coach John Rittman said. "But Teagan is very special."
When Lori Gerhart was brought into the operating room for the Caesarean procedure to deliver the triplets, three separate teams of 25 medical staff were waiting — one for each tiny newborn.
Whitley came first. She was blue from not breathing and would spend two days on a respirator in the neonatal intensive care unit. Kelsey, the smallest, was third and healthy.
What Lori remembers most vividly was Teagan's birth.
"One of the nurses made this god-awful gasp as they pulled her out," Lori said. "I looked at my husband because all these things were going through my mind like I just had Siamese twins. The doctor quickly said, 'This can be fixed surgically.' "
The roof of Teagan's mouth had not formed, nor had bones in her inner ears. Most noticeable was a congenital hairy nevus — a large mole — covering one-third of her face.
What followed were endless procedures and treatments. Doctors created a roof to her mouth, and she coped with a slight speech impediment as she grew older. Titanium prostheses implanted in both ears reduced her hearing loss from 80 percent to 20 percent. And there were surgeries to decrease the birthmark by stretching her skin.
"It was a very long road, especially in the first five years," said her mother, a special-education teacher in Norco. "People would stop and ask what was wrong with her. Elderly ladies in the grocery store would say: 'Were you burned? What happened?' "
But whatever insensitivity she encountered, Teagan always had her supportive family.
Thanks to coverage of Toby's exploits, the athletic prowess of the Gerharts has been well-chronicled.
Father, Todd, the Norco football coach, briefly was a pro running back. All six children are sports standouts. Garth is an Arizona State offensive lineman. The triplets all play college softball — Kelsey also is at Stanford and Whitley is on the Cal Poly team. And eighth-grader Coltin plays multiple sports.
It is an extremely tight-knit bunch. When Toby played his final college game at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, last month, the Gerharts all piled into a motor home for a family road trip. Afterward, Toby climbed in with them for the return to California.
Growing up, Teagan and Kelsey said, all the siblings tried to emulate their protective big brother. When they were young, Toby even taught the girls how to braid their hair.
"He showed me on a Barbie doll," Teagan said.
The triplets, in particular, were inseparable. Kelsey and Whitley looked out for Teagan. Once at a restaurant after a game, the waitress guessed Teagan must have been a pitcher because it looked like she had taken "a shot to the face." Kelsey, their mother said, "jumped right in with the whole story."
One of the most important chapters unfolded as 12-year-old Teagan again was scheduled for surgery. This time, skin would be removed from her nose and attached to her forehead for three months. The new skin then would be used to correct the remaining facial scars. But she would be away from a softball field for six months.
The night before the surgery, Teagan thought about how much she would miss sports.
"I just didn't want to do it," she said.
Teagan's sisters backed her up.
"Both of us said, 'Why would you even want to do it? You look great the way you are,' " Kelsey recalled.
Three years later, her parents revisited the idea of surgery.
"She just said that maybe later in life she might want to do it, but not now," Lori said.
That was what Teagan told Rittman and Stanford athletic director Bob Bowlsby over breakfast on her recruiting visit. At first, she shyly let her mom do most of the talking. But when she opened up, the two men were awestruck.
"She talked about the decision to not have any more surgeries and how she already was OK with who she was," Rittman recalled. "You just don't find that kind of attitude in a lot of teenage girls."
Not only is the 5-foot-8 Teagan a talented pitcher, but she's also a powerful hitter.
"She resembles Toby a lot," Rittman said. "You could put a helmet and shoulder pads on her, and she would hold her own. The sky is the limit for her athletically."
Academically, her experiences have led to interest in a medical career. And, sometimes, Toby's little sister will allow herself to think about how far she has come.
"It's a little shocking when you consider where I started out," she said.