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A reason to give thanks: Ryan and Emma Kelly’s brave journey to having kids

Find out how Indianapolis Colts’ Ryan Kelly and his wife Emma overcame tough times to finally have a family.

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As someone who writes about sports, I usually focus on big plays, game outcomes, playoff hopes, or players' impact on the field. During the holiday season, it’s good to acknowledge that our gridiron heroes are just people navigating through some of the same challenges we all face.

Perhaps no member of the Indianapolis Colts serves as a more personal reminder of that to me than Ryan Kelly.

As most fans may already know, Ryan and his wife Emma experienced tragedy when their first child, Mary Kate, was stillborn in December of 2021. It’s difficult to wrap one's head around what that must feel like, and there is no question that a football game is the last thing on anyone’s mind when you learn that someone has gone through something so hard.

But their story isn’t just about sadness. It’s also about not giving up.

The Kellys decided to try to have a baby again. They chose to go through IVF, a process that helps with pregnancy. I know how hard this journey can be because I’ve been through it, too. It’s full of ups and downs, and you always wonder what will happen next.

On Christmas Eve in 2022, they started their IVF process. After much waiting and worrying, they finally got the news they had been hoping for – they were going to have twins. While my wife and I did not have twins, IVF carries a higher likelihood for twins, so I feel like I can relate to the process they went through - which includes months of doctor’s appointments, preparation, medications that are not enjoyable for the future mothers, and the increased possibility for twins - which is both exciting and overwhelming.

Colts fans may not know the challenges the Kellys faced with their second pregnancy. Emma fought an infection and ended up in pre-term labor. There is no question that this had to be terrifying after their last baby. Their twin boys, Ford and Duke, were born at about 27 weeks and weighed 2 pounds and 2 pounds, 2 ounces. They spent a ton of time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and were there when another premature baby didn’t make it past five weeks.

It’s amazing to know that the boys pushed through and have given the Kellys what they’ve dreamt about in a young and growing family. It’s also amazing that the Kellys moved from Zionsville to Indianapolis to be closer to Mary Kate’s grave and took their boys to her gravesite after they were released from the hospital.

This may be a deep blog post for an Indianapolis Colts “blogger boy” writing from his “basement,” but ‘tis the season to be grateful and to remember we’re all in this together. We send our holiday wishes to the Kellys and hope that they enjoy all the memories with Ford and Duke this year.

Credit to Dana Hunsinger Benbow of the Indianapolis Star for her excellent article on the Kellys. Please learn more about what they’ve been through.