Charlotte Keller will root for Hawkeyes in her home state as Kid Captain

Charlotte Keller, 7, of Bellevue, Nebraska, will take the field as the Hawkeye Kid Captain when Iowa takes on Nebraska on Friday.


Ryan Adams

Kid Captain Charlotte Keller and Iowa football head coach Kirk Ferentz pose for a picture on Kinnick’s field at Kids Day at Kinnick on Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. Kids Day at Kinnick is an annual event for families to experience Iowa’s football stadium, while watching preseason practice and honoring this year’s Kid Captains.

Kelsey Harrell, News Reporter

Charlotte Keller travels to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital for treatment every three months. This weekend, Keller will not have to travel far from home to cheer on the Hawkeyes as Kid Captain when they take on Nebraska.

A 7-year-old from Bellevue, Nebraska, Charlotte was diagnosed with chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis after her parents took her to Iowa City when her local children’s hospital could not provide a definite diagnosis.

Charlotte has an immune system-driven disorder, said her doctor Polly Ferguson, UI director of rheumatology. The innate part of the immune system causes inflammation in the bones and is very painful. The disease is exceedingly rare, she said.

Charlotte also has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which causes hypermobility in her ligaments, Ferguson said. This condition makes her more flexible and contributes to her pain, she added.

By the time Ferguson met Charlotte she was still in a lot of pain, even though she had been tested for multiple different conditions, she said.

“[Charlotte] was just not a very happy kiddo, despite her overall happiness that she has because she hurt so much,” Ferguson said.

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Charlotte is an average 7-year-old, her mom Robin Keller said. She likes doing crafts, roller skating, swimming, and playing in the snow — even though the cold sets off Charlotte’s condition, she said.

“She’s basically just a little savage,” Robin Keller said. “She pushes through it all and does what she needs to do and it’s just incredible.”

Charlotte was admitted the day before the February 2017 grand opening of the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, so she was one of the first kids to stay in the hospital, Robin Keller said, which is something she is proud to have been part of.

“Charlotte loves being there,” Robin Keller said. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t like the IVs and the medicine when she’s there, but when she’s there, she’s happy. She feels loved, and she knows she’s taken care of.”

Ryan Adams
Hawkeye long snapper Jackson Subbert signs a football for Kid Captain Charlotte Keller in the Hawkeye football locker room at Kids Day at Kinnick on Saturday, August 10, 2019.

Charlotte and her family travel to Iowa City every few months for infusions and visit otherwise depending on how she’s doing, Ferguson said.

For a while Charlotte wanted to be a nurse, physical therapist, or researcher in a hospital when she grew up, but now she wants to be a YouTube vlogger, Robin Keller said.

Charlotte’s dad Spyder Keller does most of her everyday care which varies depending on how she’s feeling. This can include carrying her wherever she needs to go when she is in a lot of pain, he said.

“It has its ups and downs, some days are obviously way worse than others, but she’s quite the trooper and I just pretty much do what she needs,” Spyder Keller said.

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She enjoys doing outdoor activities, he said, although they have to make sure she doesn’t do too much.

When the Kellers travel to the Children’s Hospital, they bring plenty of snacks and toys with them so they do not have to ask for much, she said. When Charlotte walks around the hospital, she gives the snacks and toys to nurses, doctors, parents, and children she passes, she added.

“She does these things to make people feel happy,” Robin Keller said. “When she’s there, she really, really likes doing that … She’s just got such a huge, giving heart.”