The New Prosthetic Leg
Getting a new leg is something Levi looks forward to about once a year. And last week, he had a surgery to help straighten his leg.
Levi has had ten legs so far ( somehow we lost one).
Prosthetist Carita Backman adjusts Levi’s new leg.
Spring baseball on the old leg. Levi was a valuable pitcher and was nominated to the all-star team.
A knee injury in August and a month on crutches meant missing the first half of fall baseball. But Levi recovered to play the final four games. The surgery was scheduled the morning after the last game.
Fibular Deficiency and The Surgery
While we waited in the clinic room to meet Dr. John Polousky, I joked with Brenda and Levi that he may have had to look up the term fibular hemimelia (Levi’s condition). We had met several ER medical doctors when Levi injured his knee who had never heard of fibular hemimelia. And Dr. Polousky’s medical office seemed to be designed for perfect-bodied young athletes rather than kids afflicted with something unusual. But quite the opposite was the case. As it turns out, Polousky is THE guy when it comes to fibular deficiency. He knew all the doctors we visited when we first learned of the condition 10 years before. And he even knows Carita Backman, Levi’s prosthetist. Connecting with Polousky at this time was perfect.
The yellow lines illustrate the amount of bowing in the left leg.
Fibular hemimelia or longitudinal fibular deficiency is “the congenital absence of the fibula and it is the most common congenital absence of long bone of the extremities.” It is the shortening of the fibula at birth, or the complete lack thereof.
Brenda and I spent the first year of Levi’s life researching and talking to doctors. We met with several doctors locally and traveled to California and Minnesota to meet with top specialists. The decision upon us was whether to amputate/prosthetic or put Levi through an entire childhood of repeated reconstructive and leg-lengthening surgeries. At the end of each discussion with these renowned specialists, we asked the same question. “What would you do if it were your child?” The unanimous response is the reason Levi’s been able to enjoy baseball, skiing and general boyishness.
Levi hurt his knee playing soccer at summer camp. Speculation was that either a cartilage or perhaps his ACL was torn. But what the MRI revealed is that he has no ACL at all which is typical in fibular deficiency cases. Getting a new leg was going to help some, but now Dr. Polousky was telling us that surgery was needed during the growing years. While growth had been normal on the medial or inner side of Levi’s leg, the outside (lateral) was growing slower. This meant that weight was not being distributed properly on his knee.
The surgery, called hemi-epiphysiodesis, would place two screw-like plates in Levi’s knee. Designed to retard the growth on the medial side, the plates will remain for about a year.
Dr. John Polousky
Brenda Levi and I discuss the options with Dr. Polousky.
Before and after surgery at Centennial medical Plaza.
The plates will stay in the knee for about one year. We’ve been so happy with the work of Dr. Polousky.
Probably the hardest decisions parents need to make regards the health of their children. To tell the doctors to amputate, was the toughest sentence I’ve ever uttered. It sucked!
This article is written, in part, for other parents facing a similar decision.
Before we met Dr. Polousky, we met with another wonderful orthotic specialist Lauren Benson. As we were leaving her office, she asked Levi to talk with a boy about the same age who was facing the decision to amputate both legs – his feet were in bad shape and almost useless. Benson hoped that Levi’s example could inspire the boy and his parents.
Life on prosthetics isn’t glamourous for sure – there are alway sores, rashes and other hassles, but Levi’s school friends and other people he meets are pretty supportive.
Levi got his first leg at 17 months
From the very start, Levi easily adapted to life on a prosthetic leg.
Carita Backman fitting Levi for a prosthetic leg when he was about 4 years old.
Before baseball, Levi’s passion was trains.
Through the years at the prosthetist’s office.