SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — If you are an SDSU Jackrabbit fan and follow the football or basketball teams closely, there is a good chance you also know Brianna DeMarais.
She is a cheerleader who had to have part of her right leg amputated due to a rare condition that caused blood clots and poor circulation.
Life is not the same as it used to be for 20-year-old Brianna, who is a sophomore at SDSU. She cheered in one home Jacks football game back in September before pain became intolerable in her foot. Now, it’s been five months since she had surgery to have part of her leg amputated.
“Time has really gone by fast. Brianna is still progressing, not as quickly as we would have hoped, but there’s always challenges and additional challenges, but her stump is still healing,” Brianna’s dad Bob DeMarais said.
Brianna was hoping to have a prosthetic by the end of last year, but there were some setbacks.
“She had of had a couple of falls onto her stump, and so that really kind of set her back a little bit,” Bob said.
But they say things are looking better now.
“I’m really close to fully healed. And then after that, we’ll do like a ‘shrinker sock,’ which will form your leg to get a prosthetic. And I’m hoping that hopefully by the end of this month,” Brianna said.
In the meantime, just because Brianna can’t cheer now doesn’t mean she’s been away from her teammates. Her parents have driven her to Brookings weekly for cheer practice.
“I think that’s just not only a special moment for her but for our team. Like that first moment when she got to run back in and see everybody. They all ran up to her, and they just know that it’s a greater purpose when they’re there when Brianna is next to them. Not only are they there to cheer, but they’re there to make sure that Brianna is taken care of, too,” SDSU Cheer coach Isabelle Rabbe said.
But Brianna wasn’t there for just practice, you could also find her on the sidelines for football and basketball games.
“Every game that she can come to in Frost Arena, she’s there. And so just to see that dedication and that willingness, I mean, it’s not only inspiring to us, it’s inspiring to her teammates,” Rabbe said.
“The SDSU Cheer Team are so supportive for her. I mean, just for her to be able to be included on that stuff, they appreciate it for her when she’s there, and I so appreciate them allowing to be there and participate,” Bob said.
Brianna even made the trip down to Florida when the team made it to nationals.
“I’ve had a blast still being with the team at least and cheering them on,” Brianna said.
Most recently, Brianna was on the baseline for The Summit League Basketball Tournament – a time that Rabbe says was not only special for the team but all of Jackrabbits nation.
“We had people come up and fist pump her, and give her high fives and they’d come down from the stands at the end of the game, and they were like, ‘Our daughter loves you and she wanted to see you!'” Rabbe said.
“Really special. I’m glad that I was able to be with them, and we had a really good view, too, this year. I got to see the whole court,” Brianna said.
The cheer team won the Summit League Spirit Squad award, and when it was announced, a teammate gave Brianna a piggyback ride out to the middle of the court for a picture.
“And here comes Brianna and Sydney just backpacking out to the middle of the court, and you know, they’re always making sure that she’s right alongside with them,” Rabbe said.
“It’s heartwarming. A lot of people care about me, and I’m just thankful for everyone and my coaches, and teammates, and family and friends and then just the community around me,” Brianna said.
It’s moments like these that are keeping Brianna’s hopes high.
“It’s so nice that everybody’s being so good to her. And it just really does help her spirits. I mean, just the Summit Tournament alone is going to take her through the next couple of months, or at least until she gets her prosthetic leg,” Bob said.
And with physical therapy, she’ll be walking on two legs again soon.
“She has a little baby niece, and she says, she’s four months old, so it’s like a little competition with her niece to see who gets to walk first,” Bob said.
And when she does, she’ll be ready.
“I’m super excited because then I can walk on two feet and also be able to hopefully start cheering once I get my cheer prosthetic,” Brianna said.
That way this flyer can be soaring through the air and cheering on the Jacks once again.
“The day that happens, whether that’s in the next couple of months or football season, we are ready for it. We’re going to have her on the sidelines,” Rabbe said.
“I’m really excited to be back and cheering and be with the team again,” Brianna said.
Brianna is still taking classes from home and has regular appointments while waiting to heal enough for the prosthetic. She will eventually require an athletic prosthetic as well to resume cheer, which the family will have to pay for out of pocket.