From December 2008 - March 2009, Robbie Shackelford was hit with a completely debilitating and devastating illness that took away his ability to walk, talk, eat and live life like the healthy and busy 11 year old boy that he had been.  This blog was written mostly by his father, Ken, as he strove to keep family, friends and prayer warriors all around the world up to date during Robbie's stay at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock (and the months following).

Just by scrolling down you can go backwards in time through this journey, BUT, if you would like to start at the beginning, CLICK HERE (Shelby's first update on December 21, 2008).  Then, at the bottom each page, the next Update title will show up for you to click on.

Update #57 - Great Honor

Greetings and God bless you all,

Tanja and I just returned from a four-day getaway for our 20th anniversary. It was a blessed time of relaxing and reflecting on the goodness of God these past 20 years. Tanja’s parents came and watched our kids while we were away. It was a great blessing to return home and see the amazing progress Robbie had made in just a few days as well. While it has been about two weeks since you saw him walk on the video, he was not able to walk that much when we left this past Sunday. He had to go in a straight line and couldn’t stop or slow down or he’d fall backwards. When we arrived home yesterday, he was walking all over the place! He was able to stand up without holding on to anything, stand still, turn corners, stop and go. As you can imagine, he was very excited to show off when we got home. He is greatly enjoying the new freedom that not being permanently attached to a wheelchair gives him. He still needs it if he is going somewhere as his stamina for walking has not built up yet but it probably won’t be too long before we can say good-bye to the wheel chair altogether. Today in PT, he jumped on the trampoline unaided and got some pretty good air!

One of Robbie’s many “little prayer warriors” is a young boy named Micah. When his mom saw the video this past week, she told Micah excitedly, “Robbie’s walking! Isn’t that great!” Micah said, “Yes!” and then paused for a moment, then asked with even more excitement, “Do you think he’d let me ride his wheel chair now?”  :-) His motorized wheelchair is quite the source of envy among some of his young (and not so young) friends at church. Robbie will most assuredly be glad to hand it off as soon as he can.

Besides his improvement in walking, there have been two amazing highlights this past week. Last Saturday, I took Robbie to the U of A’s “Razorfest” at the football stadium and for the Red-White game that followed. He was enjoying himself but he also got a little bit melancholy as there were quite a few booths that had games that he was physically unable to play. That all changed when something very special happened. Let me share with you an e-mail and picture from a man who was working the “Energizer Bunny” booth (his name is Mike and he sent this e-mail to another Mike who sent it to me):


Could you please forward the attached picture to Ken Shackelford? The Energizer team was working at Razorfest on Saturday giving out Energizer Bunny ears and 300 additional prizes. One of the most valuable prizes that we were handing out (completely random by the way as it was up to the Energizer Bunny and the handler to hand out all the prizes...these were not Energizer employees) was $104 in cash to one lucky winner....can you guess who that lucky winner was? Well, after praying for Robbie and his family over the last several months and then to finally meet him in this situation was simply amazing....we hope Robbie continues to get better so he can keep going and going and going.....

Ps. The $104 prize was tied to Clear Channel Radio and Energizer Battery Company teaming up together. Energizer handed out the prizes and Clear Channel Radio told their listeners all about it.....

Mike N.

As you can imagine, Robbie was thrilled to win $104 (see the attached picture that Mike sent me). He is now on his way to saving enough money for 3 more flight lessons. No matter where we go, we have run into people who don’t know us but have been earnestly and faithfully praying for Robbie. What an amazing family of God we have!

The other great blessing we received was from our friend, retired Air Force Col. Gage Bleakley and his son, who serves in the Army Rangers in Iraq. The honor they gave Robbie this past Sunday was unbelievable and I have dedicated another web page to it:
go to www.theshackfamily.com and click on the “HONOR” link at the top. I know it will touch you like it has Tanja and I...and Robbie.

Thank you again for your prayers and please continue. We still have a long road ahead. I leave for China for two weeks so please pray for my trip, for safety, and for an anointing from God to be effective in doing all that needs to be done in my 14 days there. Please pray for Tanja and our children while I am away. ESPECIALLY PRAY FOR ROBBIE’S MEDICAL APPOINTMENTS THIS COMING WEDNESDAY. Pray for his botox treatment that looks to be inevitable. Pray that he will not be too anxious about it and that it will not hurt too much. Pray that any tests result will bring good news. PRAY THAT HE CAN GET AN APPOINTMENT TO GET HIS “BUTTON” (G-TUBE) OUT. He has had some complications with it and the treatment for it was extremely painful. Pray that it can be removed next week and he will heal up fine. And, as always, please join us in giving thanks to our God. His healing touch is upon Robbie. His mercies are new every morning. His love never fails.

Grace and peace,


Update #54 - Therapy Everyday

Robbie continues to experience incremental improvement. Tanja and I continued to be absolutely amazed at his resiliency. He works so hard and continues to be mostly unfazed by the incredible challenges to come before him. The Spirit of God is very evidently a part of Robbie’s fiber and that, beyond any healing, generates incredible thankfulness in my heart for all of you who lift my son up to the throne of the King.

He has therapy every weekday and has yet to complain when it is time to go. He is challenging himself far more than we would feel comfortable doing. Tanja has also started up his homeschooling and he is doing great - as sharp as ever. He is still unable to write because of his right arm troubles but, mentally and intellectually, he has been able to do anything he did before. He is actually reading a bit more than he did before.

PLEASE CONTINUE TO PRAY THOUGH. In O.T. today, we had something happen that has CAUSED SOME CONCERN with us. Robbie’s therapist was having him write on a board with weights on his arms. She asked him to write his numbers and he did, but he wrote every number backwards. She asked him to write them the opposite way and he was able to but he couldn’t decide which one was the correct way and became really upset and frustrated by that. Tanja and the therapist didn’t make a big deal of it and moved to something else. They will test him in that area more fully but Tanja came over to my office which is across the parking lot and was very shaken up. We are obviously very concerned about this and just ask you to PRAY THAT HE HAS NO LASTING EFFECTS IN HIS BRAIN THAT WOULD CAUSE SOMETHING LIKE DYSLEXIA. While homeschooling, he is able to solve math problems in his head and answer specific questions vocally so the disconnect is when the brain tries to write the numbers out. We are continuing to, very slowly, pull off of some of his meds and that may have something to do with it. Please pray.

I would also like to ask you all to please PRAY FOR THE JADE TREE PROJECT. Some of you who follow Robbie may not know that this is the name of the project we work with on the Tibetan Plateau. The rug company that we are a part of (and allows us to do community development in these remote locations) is in severe financial straights because of the effects of our recession both here and in China. Pray for some kind of breakthrough in this realm or our ability to return “home” may not even be there by the time Robbie is better. 

Thank you all and blessings


Update #52 - Walking with Jesus

Greetings to all,

Thank you for your continued prayers during this first busy week back home. We especially thank you for your prayers this past Sunday. We believe God answered them in a special way. After getting back home for the hospital Sunday, Robbie was still feeling unwell but better. The hardest thing for us was seeing how “down in the dumps” he was emotionally all day Sunday. He was sad to have missed church after so long. He was sad because he missed all of his “friends” (as he calls all those on the rehab team at ACH). He was sad because it was hard to get around the house and currently not possible to do many of the things he used to do easily. ...and basically, he was sick and tired of being sick and tired. He just laid curled-up in bed throughout the day and we couldn’t get him to do much of anything. He didn’t want to talk or have a book read to him or watch a movie or have the girls play a game with him next to his bed. He ended up going to sleep around 6pm and slept through the night.

Monday morning Robbie woke up and said he was still nauseated a bit but had a smile on his face and his countenance was joyful. He said, “I had a great dream last night” and he pointed to the entry door to our house which is right across from his bedroom door. He continued, “It was dark in the middle of the night and there was a knock on the door but you were all asleep and no one answered it.” Robbie then showed us how, in the dream, he sat up on the side of his bed with his legs hanging off. “I sat up but I couldn’t get to the door, but then the door opened up. It was Jesus who opened it and he had two really huge angels on each side of him.” Now, as Robbie is telling this to us, he has a huge smile across his face and said, “Jesus walked straight to me in my bed and took both my hands and we started walking together. And then the dream ended.” Tanja and I were choking back tears when Robbie said sincerely, “I just REALLY needed a dream like that right now.”

This is what I mean when I say I believe your prayers were answered in a special way. Robbie’s week has been full of new challenges as we work out ways for him to get around and as we go through therapy evaluations and doctor’s appointments - through big challenges like how to get him in and out of cars and ones that maybe aren’t so big but still hard, like when we walked around our neighborhood and he watched boys his age throw a football around and somewhat obviously try not to stare as he buzzed by on his power chair. Through all of this, Robbie continues to be amazingly strong and have a great attitude - a testament to the Spirit inside of him and the prayers of the saints.

Our girls have also been a great help and are glad to be home. Thank you for your prayers for them as well. Today is our Shelby’s sweet 16 birthday and what a wonderful and beautiful young lady she is. Tanja and some of her close friends took Shelby out to a luncheon yesterday and just spoke words of wisdom and encouragement to her. Yesterday evening, I had the privilege of taking her out on her first “date” as we dressed up and went to a nice restaurant. We look forward to doing some special things with her today as well.

Please ask the Lord for strength, patience, and faithfulness for Tanja and I during this time of uncertainty and, once again, major change. We seem to be in a constant state of having to just take one day at a time because there isn’t even the option to try to plan much further ahead than that. Pray that we can be content with what He gives us to do for each day that He give us. 

Thank you and God bless you all,


Update #50 - Back to the Hospital

Well, I was hoping that my 50th e-mail would be about the joys of having Robbie home with us but it looks like we are going to be needing more prayer. We had a great trip home and a good day Friday and good morning Saturday. We ran around a bit to get some things for our home yesterday afternoon. Yesterday evening Robbie began not feeling very well but seemed okay. He started getting nauseated last night and has been throwing up through the night. We would, of course, think nothing of having a healthy child throwing up but all of his medications are oral and Robbie is far from being a healthy child up to this point.


Love to all,



Update #43 - He has ordained praise... [First Words]

“PRAISE GOD, JESUS AND THE HOLY SPIRIT” (Click on the play button above to hear Robbie speaking)

Greetings to all,

We had a fairly good weekend overall with continued improvements in very small increments. The best of days still include many moments of frustration as he struggles to communicate, struggles to get comfortable, struggles to keep from going crazy being stuck in a hospital. He is all boy and wants to go out and jump and run, throw balls and chase someone down with his nerf-gun in hand. He wants to sit cross-legged on the ground building his newest Lego creation. He wants to do a cannonball into a pool and swim underwater like a frog. He wants be at home with his sisters and play Monopoly, rolling dice, moving pieces around a board and counting play money. It is looking like it will still be a long frustration-inducing period of time before these things are possible though we still pray for God to speed up the process. We are still not given any assurances by the experts that some of these things will ever be possible for him again but, in faith, we believe God will bring him to full recovery. 

Robbie continues to work very hard to speak, and I say “work hard” literally. [I am including a sound-bite, above, of him saying “Praise God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit”] Making any specific sound and word takes intense effort from him but he does it. He has done amazingly well in being patient when we don’t understand what he says and have to pull out the spell-board (about half of the time he speaks). He, of course, loses his patience some of the time as well and just gets upset. Sunday was a hard day of just overall discomfort, emotion and weariness as they continue to pull some of his medications. Today has been better. His pool therapy is always a blessing. I am also including a picture of him kayaking in the therapy pool. He was able to stay in the boat for about 5 minutes before he gave out but he loves doing it.

PLEASE PRAY THAT HE CONTINUES TO HAVE A GOD-STRENGTHENED MIX OF PATIENCE AND PERSERVERANCE. Pray that he can get a swallow study soon so that we can begin to progress a little bit more in what he is able to eat. Please continue to pray that his feet and toes will loosen some.

I also ask that you specifically pray that we can go home to Fayetteville before the end of this month. There are several reasons for this other than the fact that we just desperately want to be home together as a family. 

Our girls are up in Fayetteville right now being blessed by various members of our church body there. We are so thankful to so many of you for loving on our girls during this time. They have been living out of suitcases for more than two months now and have been troopers. Please lift Shelby and Bethany up in prayer as well.

My Father came up this past Saturday with a DVD of one of Harding University’s chapels this past week. It showed over 4,000 students singing Robbie’s favorite songs “Blue Skies” and then all of them saying “We love you, Robbie!”. My dad also brought three poster boards crammed full of hand written notes to Robbie and they also gave him a Harding U. basketball uniform [see attached pic]. Robbie began crying when he watched the DVD - he is just so overwhelmed by the love people are showing him. For those of you at Harding who read this, thank you so much for your love and support.

Again, thank you all for your prayers.

Ken and Tanja