Four-year-old Amnesty Marshall is much more than a walking miracle.
She is a bright, intelligent, beautiful and fun-filled girl, who just happens to have been born with spina bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly.
As a result, she was limited in her movements. She was unable to walk independently until a year ago.
After less than a year of diligent work with physical and occupational therapists at Head To Toe Therapy in Phoenix, Amnesty took her first steps without a walker and began a whole new chapter in her life in March 2018.
Amnesty is the daughter of Krystal and Dusty Marshall of Maricopa. The couple has two other daughters, Noel, almost 3, and Marie, who was just born in December.
Dusty Marshall is a professional Christian hip hop artist, and the family often travels the country with him as he performs.
“We have seen the results in trusting God. Our faith and trust in Christ is something that has been huge,” Dusty said. “Going through the struggles together and being able to lean on Him and one another.”
Dusty said when Amnesty was in the womb, doctors discovered she had a serious heart problem and might not survive.
“It was something they had monitored weekly while she was in the womb. The day she was born, they did a scan of her heart and it was perfectly healthy,” Dusty said. “They were also saying she would never have use of her legs at all.
“To go from that extreme to now, where she is 4 and she’s walking, has been a rollercoaster,” Dusty said.
Krystal Marshall said doctors gave them an option to terminate the pregnancy, but they chose not to do that.
“We never would have seen what God could do in her life if we would have succumbed to that fear,” she said. “It looked really grim. It looked like it wasn’t going to go well. Even if it didn’t go well, that really is not our say. Watching her thrive has really been a huge blessing in our lives.”
Krystal said no one really thought Amnesty would ever walk.
“Now she’s in a dance class here locally in Maricopa, and so is Noel. She’s just a regular little girl,” Krystal said.
Dusty said Amnesty had two major surgeries days after being born.
One was to close her spinal cord back into her body because “her spine was sticking out when she was born.”
A few days later, doctors installed a shunt into her brain to release fluid that was built up. She still has the shunt as well as a scar on her back from the surgeries.
“We spent three weeks in the NIC-U and we didn’t even know how to change a diaper,” Krystal said.
With Dusty traveling the nation for his work, Amnesty and Krystal have gone along on the road.
“Amnesty has been to more places than most people will ever go,” Krystal said. “She’s been to 22 states. We have traveled the country, and Amnesty’s story has been shared in all these states. People have chosen life for their babies because of her story. They have been inspired with hope and all of this is from this amazing blessing of having this little girl come into our lives.”
The family will go on an 11-state tour beginning in May.
The Marshalls moved to Maricopa from Las Vegas in late 2016. During the first year they lived in Arizona, Amnesty received in-home care from therapists. After their in-home benefits expired, they began searching for a clinic that could provide therapy services for Amnesty.
“We searched across the Phoenix area, but every clinic we went to had a waitlist of six months to a year,” said Krystal. “We were praying God would lead us to the right place.”
In early 2018, Krystal contacted Head To Toe Therapy and it made an immediate appointment for Amnesty with Melissa Pink, one of the clinic’s therapists.
Head To Toe ensured that Krystal could watch Amnesty’s weekly therapy sessions with Pink.
Krystal said, “Pink wouldn’t fit Amnesty into a box, and she tailored a specific therapy plan to fit Amnesty’s specific needs. She would even let Amnesty play and would target the therapy around Amnesty playing.”
After 12 weeks of continuous and regular therapy sessions, Amnesty took her first steps without the aid of a walker in March 2018.
“When she started walking it was kind of like falling with feet underneath her,” Krystal said. “When those controlled steps started happening, we were looking at each other thinking, ‘She’s going to walk without a walker.’ There was no doubt, and now she’s doing it.”
Head To Toe founder Dr. Bridget O’Brien went out of her way to get to know the Marshall family and forged a relationship with the entire family. She would make time once a week to get coffee with Krystal and forged a friendship with the Marshall family.
After Amnesty took her first steps, O’Brien partnered with the Spina Bifida Association of Arizona and the Marshall’s to host a special play date at Head To Toe for families and kids with spina bifida. O’Brien covered the costs of the entire party, and nearly 30 people attended.
“Last year’s play date was an immense success, and Head To Toe Therapy is proud to host this family friendly event once again,” said O’Brien.
This year, Head To Toe is hosting the “Phoenix Spina Bifida Play Date” group again, and the families are very excited about it. The event will take place on March 16 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“They are happy and joyful kids,” Dusty Marshall said. “Obviously, they have special needs, but they don’t know any different. They are enjoying being children.”