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June 15, 2006

Sister inspiration to All-Stater Pitts

From: Enid News & Eagle, OK - Jun 15, 2006

By Bruce Campbell Staff Writer

Enid’s Kelsie Pitts could put a .202 batting average as a junior into perspective.

If she was ever down, she just thought of her younger sister, Kiersten, who was born with a severe hearing disability but is going on with her life just fine.

“She’s been my whole inspiration my entire life,’’ Pitts said. “She’s the most strong-willed person I’ve met in my life or known. She’s been through so much ... she was criticized so much, but she kept on going.’’

Life is good for both Pitts sisters now.

Kelsie will be the catcher for the Large North team at Saturday’s Oklahoma Softball Coaches Association All-State game after raising her average to .322 as a senior.

Kiersten is “doing fantastic’’ with a cochlear implant she had done a year ago.

Kiersten, who will be a sophomore at EHS this fall, had her first implant a few years ago. She developed an infection from it, which required treatment from a home IV.

“She had an IV hanging on her hip and she never complained,’’ said the elder Pitts. “She was so calm. I’m so proud of her.’’

Kiersten was a good softball player in grade school, but later quit the game.

“Nobody made fun of her (on the softball field),’’ Pitts said, “but I honestly think the disability slowed her down. I think she became irritated because she couldn’t hear everything all the time.’’

Instead, Kiersten became Kelsie’s biggest fan, never missing one of her home games.

“She’s a little more quiet in public,’’ Kelsie said, “but every once in awhile I can hear her say ‘Go Kelsie.’’’

Kiersten made the principal’s honor roll at Waller Junior High. She is becoming more outgoing.

“She’s making more friends,’’ Pitts said. “My face lights up seeing that she knows what it is now, instead of having to ask.’’

Kiersten’s struggles have inspired Kelsie to become a speech pathologist.

At one point, the only way the sisters could communicate was sign language. It was difficult for Kelsie to get her attention or understand why she acted the way she did.

That, Pitts said, made her more sensitive to the plight of the handicapped.

“It was a hassle to get her attention,’’ Pitts said. “We did fight a lot. Since she’s gotten the cochlear implant we have become really close. We plan our days together. We do things together. I know she would rather ride in my car than with my parents.’’

She has learned how to respect how difficult it was for her younger sister, even with the cochlear implant.

“Before she got it, they told us it would have been a lot easier if she got it when she was 3a,’’ Pitts said. “She had to re-learn to do everything because she was so used to relying on hearing aids.’’

Pitts has signed to play softball at Southern Nazarene. She will study kinesiology there. Pitts hopes to go to graduate school at the University of Oklahoma to study both speech pathology and audiology.

Audiology is the scientific study of how to handle the sound waves of the cochlear implants.

Pitts was inspired to become a speech pathologist by Kiersten’s therapist and a summer camp she attended. Kiersten’s therapist set it up for her.

“That showed me what I wanted to do,’’ Pitts said. “I’ve never been more comfortable than I was at that camp. I went into the room and I was instantly comfortable around them.’’

Her best friend, Amy Barrios of Moore, is partially deaf. They formed an instant bond as summer teammates and will room together at SNU.

“I’m always real patient if she doesn’t hear me the first time,’’ Pitts said. “Some of the girls couldn’t understand what she was saying at first. I was used to that. I instantly became friends with her.’’

One reason why she decided on SNU was its closeness to home. She still plans to go home every weekend.

“I’m a very family oriented person,’’ she said. “That’s my No. 1 priority.’’

The All-State selection capped a dream season for Pitts, who helped led the Pacers to their first-ever state tournament appearance. She will be joined on the North team by Enid teammate Jenna Schroeder, who hit .415

“It’s a little bit overwhelming,’’ Pitts said. “Ever since I was a freshman, I wanted to get my name on that wall (of All-Staters). I’m getting to play college softball. I’m getting to major what I want to major in.’’

The game, at the OU Softball Complex in Norman, will start at 3:30 p.m. She is having relatives come in from Texas to watch.

“I just want to do my best and have fun,’’ Pitts said.

© 2006, The Enid News & Eagle