Karissa Sibley, now 12, survived the malignant tumor, but still suffers its effects: Hearing loss, vision problems and a learning disability. She also takes a growth hormone and thyroid medication.
Her parents are Alan and Laurie Sibley; the family lives in Carbon Hill.
Karissa’s experience has inspired the family to help others in their situation. For the past seven years, Alan and Laurie Sibley and some of their nine children have ridden motorcycles in the annual Ride for Kids, a fund-raiser for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
Last year, Alan Sibley joined the organization’s task force, where he helps recruit riders and sponsors.
He said it was heartbreaking to watch his daughter go through her illness and surgery when she was 4 years old, thus his desire to help others.
It started when Karissa suffered repeated high fevers. Doctors gave her many rounds of medicines, including antibiotics, but the fever always came back.
Then a doctor noticed that the child was wobbling and struggling to keep her balance while she was sitting down. Determined that something was wrong, he ordered tests. They showed a medulloblastoma - a highly malignant brain tumor.
That was on a Wednesday. On Thursday, Karissa was admitted to Children’s Hospital, and on Friday she had surgery.
“At first we wondered why,” said Alan Sibley. “Then we realized it was not for us to wonder why. There had to be a reason for it.”
Today, Karissa is doing well. She is a student at Carbon Hill, and she has learned to ride horses through the Equines Assisting Special Individuals (EASI) program in Jasper.
“She’s getting more confident,” said Alan Sibley.
In 2005, Karissa was the honorary chairperson for the Walker County Relay For Life.
This year, she will again be riding with her father in the Ride for Kids, scheduled for Sept. 9. It starts and ends at the Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds.
The basic cost to enter the ride is $35. For higher entry fees, riders receive more items.
Sibley said motorcycles with side cars are needed, so children who use wheelchairs can participate.
He said the event usually draws 300 to 400 riders. Breakfast and lunch is provided for participants, and they get to do a parade lap around the track.
Riders are also entered into a drawing to win a new Honda motorcycle.
All proceeds benefit the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
For more information, contact Sibley at 275-1757 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Stacy Ashby at 587-7743 or email@example.com; or the PBTF at (800) 253-6530; or visit rideforkids.org.