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5 Aug 2015

Georgia Stacker Shines Despite Early-Life Struggles

Georgia Stacker Shines Despite Early-Life Struggles

The cups weren’t always stacked in Drew Pridgen’s favor.

It was Feb. 2004. Both Drew and his twin sister Kaylea (Tifton, Ga.) were born 13 weeks premature – weighing just over two pounds – and they remained in critical condition in the neonatal intensive care unit at the Medical Center of Central Georgia.

At just two weeks old, they had already been given their first grueling diagnosis: Drew and Kaylea had Grade III/IV brain bleeds and there was a strong possibility they would have cerebral palsy. For more than 100 days, the diagnoses poured in – brain bleeds, premature lungs, retinopathy.

It was a trying time for the youngsters, along with their parents Shane and Dawn.

Though they were able to go home for the first time after more than three months of doctor care, Drew and Kaylea struggled with basic functions most babies develop inside the womb. They had to be taught to breath, suck and swallow a bottle. They began physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy services from the moment they came home. And, after six months at home, Drew returned to the hospital to have a VP shunt placed in his head to redirect the fluid building up in his brain into his abdomen.

“[Drew and Kaylea] started out as two-pound preemies and they’re now 11 and fully healthy,” Dawn said. “We are truly blessed.”

Now 11 years old, Drew has become one of the quickest sport stackers in the state of Georgia in just two years of practice. He has overcome all initial diagnosis on his way to competing in his second consecutive AAU Junior Olympic Games this week in Hampton Roads, Va.

“He’s dealt well with everything,” Dawn said. “He’s overcome it all.”

Drew, who owns two state records and roughly 60 sets of cups, hopes to one day compete for Team USA.

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