CLYDE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – At 13 years old, Lexi O’Brien of Clyde has always been an active girl, playing football and running cross country despite being born at just 23 weeks with a 5% chance to live.
“The odds have always been stacked against her, but she has always met the challenge head on,” says Lexi’s mother, Sami O’Brien.
The O’Briens wouldn’t know until she was 6 years old, but Lexi was also born with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, a condition that affected muscle development in all four of her limbs.
“There was guilt that it’s because her muscles are giving out, it’s because of the Cerebral Palsy that she just couldn’t do these things,” Sami says.
But even from a young age, Lexi wasn’t content to be defined by what she couldn’t do.
At the age of 6, she suffered and recovered from an accidental traumatic brain injury. That next year she became the only girl on a local flag football team.
Though most of her teammates were welcoming, she says she was fighting for her place on the field from first through sixth grade.
“It was really competitive. I just pushed myself to beat all the boys,” Lexi said.
It’s a spirit of perseverance that she hasn’t lost, according to her head cross country coach at Clyde, Reagan Sewell.
“To be real honest, we weren’t sure just how she would do. But I’ll tell you, she’s shown a lot of heart,” says Sewell.
Her first meet in 2021 came only months after another setback: if she didn’t receive surgery she would use the use of her leg.
“Last December she had surgery on her achilles tendon because she wasn’t able to walk, she was about to the point where she couldn’t walk anymore,” Lexi’s mom says. “Here we are seven months later running cross country.”
At that first meet, Lexi ran 1.5 miles, though with her legs still healing, she says the pain was intense.
“She crossed the finish line crying because it hurt so much,” her mother says.
Her time for that same run at her most recent competition was 12 minutes and 58 seconds.
“My teammates were cheering me on, and my coaches were and everyone else was, so I kept pushing through for them,” Lexi says.
“It hurts to watch her go through it, but I mean the pride that I feel, I just cry every time she crosses the finish line,” Lexi’s mom added.
Lexi’s coach says though she may not be bringing home any medals just yet, her story is no less inspiring.
“We’ve got great athletes in our program, but to have a kid like that come out and show that kind of heart, it’s an inspiration to everyone.” Sewell says.