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Topic: Step(s)( 11/29/12)
Walk! Run! Leap!
By Carolyn Ancell
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Ryan was born with fibular hemimelia, compromising the bone structure in his lower left leg and foot. At 7 1/2 months of age, he underwent a Symes amputation below the knee to prepare him for a prosthetic foot and leg that would enable him to stand up and take his first steps like any other baby. And stand he did. That accomplished, there was no stopping him. When he was two, Janet caught him climbing up the 5’ chain link fence to the dog pen. Successfully. She knew then that “he was going to be just fine.”
Ryan is now nine. He not only walks, he runs, leaps from heights I would never have attempted, flies off homemade bike ramps, and fishes, hunts and traps with his dad, older brother, and cousins. (He told me in a telephone interview that he also “empties the dishwasher, washes pots and pans, and sweeps.”)
Ryan has so far outgrown, or worn out, 11 legs. Each time he gets a new leg, he chooses the fabric design that covers it. The designs on his collection, which he keeps in a box in his closet, include John Deere tractors, antlers, trucks, Bob the Builder, camo, and bright red flames (as he is currently into camping and campfire cooking).
In addition to Ryan’s can-do spirit, and his parents treating him, and expecting him to be, like any other kid with the same responsibilities and freedoms as his brother and two sisters, a great help to his accomplishments has been Shriners Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, and a prosthetist who was assigned to him as a baby and has been with him until now. Ryan says, “Brent measures and fits my leg. He knows me and understands me.” Brent used to be a “Shriners kid” himself. He does understand.
Janet is open and forthcoming about what it took to get to this point, how her Christian faith, family, friends, co-workers, and even total strangers have been a supportive community for her, and how she can now in turn be a support to others facing similar challenges. Several weeks after Ryan was born, tearful and weighed down by all the medical information she was supposed to process, and the decisions she and her husband were supposed to make, she prayed, “Lord, this is just too big for me, too heavy to carry. I am going to give it all to you.” Immediately, she says, in her surrender, she felt herself breathing again.
God also sent a loving community of strangers to support her. Janet describes the night, shortly after Ryan’s birth, that she was sitting alone at the computer in the middle of the night. She found the website for I-CAN, the International Child Amputee Network. “I sent out a note from my heart: my concerns for my child, the looming fears surrounding amputation, my baby’s future, his welfare. And when I woke up the next morning, there were 15 e-mails from mothers whose children were also amputees. The mothers reached out to me saying things like, ‘Your baby is going to be just fine,’ and ‘in the midst of your concern, don’t forget to enjoy your baby.’ “ It was a turning point. There was still surgery, pain, and lots of hard work ahead, but baby Ryan was a joy, and he was going to be “just fine.”
Today, 9 year old Ryan certainly is fine. He stands tall, walks with confidence, runs like the wind, and leaps into a future filled with adventure and promise. And Janet stands
tall with motherly pride, walks in faith, and runs in happy circles with her active family. Her heart leaps as she beholds her boy, and like another mother we remember in this Advent season, cries out with gladness, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my savior” (Luke 1:46 JB Jerusalem Bible).
Addendum: In researching and reading prior to writing about my grandson Ryan, I came across a website for a small national charity that supports children and adults with limb deficiencies and amputations. The name of this charity: STEPS.
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