A boy’s journey from amputation to leader at the Kansas Shrine Bowl
Colton is eloquent about many things – his love of football or his motto for life, for example.
But when you ask him about his feelings on being chosen as the honorary captain for the 48th annual Kansas Shrine Bowl this June, words become more elusive.
“Wow,” the 12-year-old said. “Is this a dream or is this real? Wow. Just… wow.”
That word, “Wow,” is often used when people hear Colton share his story – how his left leg was amputated at Shriners Hospitals for Children – St. Louis when he was a baby, how he started walking within 30 minutes of being fitted with his first prosthesis, how he has gone on to compete in multiple sports, living life like a kid with no limitations.
“I can do everything I set my mind to,” Colton said. “The only limitations I have are the limitations I set on myself.”
Becky was pregnant with Colton when an ultrasound revealed his legs were different lengths. Shortly after he was born, a relative who was a Shriner in Portland, Oregon, insisted Colton drag his parents on a road trip to the St. Louis Shriners Hospital.
“The first time we walked into that hospital, the warmth and caring feeling, the atmosphere … you could feel it,” Becky said. “We just knew we were in the right place.”
Dr. Perry Schoenecker visited with the family after a thorough examination. His recommendation was one that made Becky and her husband, Jim, pause.
There were two options: Treat Colton through multiple surgeries to lengthen his shorter leg and completely reconstruct his ankle, or amputate his foot and fit him with a prosthetic. Thankfully, Becky said, there were people there who could help them with their decision.
“We met with another family whose son had the same condition as Colton and who had amputated,” Becky said. “Hearing them tell us that choosing amputation was the hardest decision they ever had to make but that they’d do it all over again made all the difference.”
And so, on Nov. 19, 2009, Dr. Schoenecker amputated Colton’s left foot. A year later he was fitted for his first prosthetic through the hospital’s Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services – POPS – led by Darren Rottmann.
Darren, who lost part of his leg i a lawn mower accident as a child, quickly became close to Colton and his family.
“What makes him special to me is he knows what I’m going through because he’s gone through it,” Colton said. “If I need help, he’s going to be there.”
Colton has now outgrown seven prosthetic legs. His eighth supported him this winter as he led his football team, playing quarterback and fullback.
And now he’s ready to lead the charge for the Kansas Shrine Bowl as its honorary captain. Getting to spend time with the players and Shriners is special to him, he said.
“It really feels like family,” he said. “It’ll be great getting to motivate the players. If telling my story helps one person, well, then there’s a purpose for what I’ve faced.”
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