11/21/02 - Beating the Odds

Parents always dream big for their children, but the accomplishments one Heartland boy has achieved are far beyond anything his mom and dad could ever imagine. When Luther Penny Obermiller was born, doctors gave him a year to live. Now ten years later he's proving them wrong, and has achieved an award no one ever thought was possible, a black belt in tae kwon-do.
Tae kwon-do is Luther's passion. He spends six days a week perfecting his skills. At ten years old, he's already a black belt. Although he's small for his age, it's a big accomplishment for any boy his age, but it's almost unheard of for someone who's life started out like Luther's did.
His mother, MeLissa, says, "When he was born, he had a hole in his heart, underdeveloped lungs, underdeveloped kidneys, he was jaundiced." And the news just got worse. "They said he wouldn't live to see his first birthday, and if he lived he would be at least two to three years behind in his physical and mental development," MeLissa says.
But on his first birthday, Luther took a turn for the better. By the time he was three, doctors said he would okay. "Nobody can figure it out," MeLissa says. "I always say there's a reason why he's here and that just proves it."
His tae kwon-do instructor, Master Thomas Black says, "It's almost a miracle, and that's all you can say about it." Luther knows about the problems he had, but his mind is fixed on his performance. "It keeps me in shape. It's fun and I can socialize with my friends," Luther says.
Luther's hard work is paying off. He's one of 21 children from Southern Illinois who's earned a spot on the U.S. World Team. They leave in January to compete in Cancun, Mexico. Luther still has to be watched carefully and make sure he's never kicked in the lower back. A small setback, considering everything he's overcome. "I say look at what he's doing," MeLissa says. "This is the kid who doctors said would never ride a bike, play sports, never compete."

Luther still has to get a physical done every year to make sure everything's okay. Doctors will take a closer look at his kidneys when he hits puberty, to make sure they're doing okay. As of right now, there's no reason to believe he won't be able to live a long healthy lifestyle.