MISSION MOMENT: How the Y Changed Her Life

Jan 29, 2021

On Valentine’s day of 2007, Keri Phipps was struck with a rare heart arrhythmia and was defibrillated a total of 33 times in a 13 hour period. In the process of trying to keep Keri’s heart beating, a heart catheter caused her to develop compartment syndrome in my left leg, which involved an emergency leg surgery. Keri was in a coma for a month and awoke to find herself in kidney failure on daily dialysis, and paralyzed from the knee down with no active nerve function. She remained in the hospital for months and left wheelchair bound, with the diagnosis that amputation was her only option.

Just two days before the scheduled surgery, Keri learned about the The Dellon Institutes for Peripheral Nerve Surgery®, an institution that specializes in correcting difficult peripheral nerve problems. Two days later, on the day of her scheduled amputation, she arrived in Baltimore for a series of eight surgeries that would ultimately save her leg. While she knew the road to recovery would not be easy, she did not yet know the role the Exeter Area YMCA would play in saving her leg and her life.

While recovering from her surgeries and simultaneously battling Crohn’s disease, Keri felt illness had become her identity and was at her heaviest weight of 300 pounds. It was during this time that Keri’s father became terminally ill and it led her to an epiphany to live her life better. One day she simply put on tennis shoes, began to walk, and felt a sense of accomplishment that she hadn’t experienced in years. After a few months of walking outside, Keri felt inspired to get a family membership at the Exeter Area YMCA.

What Keri found at the Y was beyond her wildest dreams. It gave her a purpose again, a sense of community and belonging, and it became her happy place. She signed up for John Scuto’s Intro to Weights and was hooked. She felt like she was given a set of tools and becoming strong and fit was a snowball effect, eventually resulting in a 100 pound weight loss! And while weight loss was important to her, it was the influence her new lifestyle had on her mental health that was most significant. “The mind/body connection that I had dismissed for so many years prior had finally come together. When your head doesn’t feel right, your body doesn’t either. It is vital to invest in yourself first and then the rest of the pieces fall together,” Keri said.

Keri became fast friends with Sean Murphy, the Y’s Facilities Coordinator. She recalls last year when a twisted ankle kept her away from the Y for six weeks. Sean sent her a Facebook message making sure she was okay and it was that message that motivated her to come back to the Y after feeling stuck in a rut. “Sean often says that the Y is a family and so much more than just a gym”, Keri said. “He couldn’t be more right. That’s why I recently joined the Y team as a Front Desk Associate! I’m also working on my personal training and nutritionist certifications. If I can inspire just one person, everything I've been through won't be in vain. This place has completely changed my life. For me, the Y is as vital as air.”

Southern District YMCA is a cause-driven organization that is for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.