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.”
More of My Work
St. Louis Shriners Hospital team helps Kansas teen pursue college golf dreams When Kerrigan approached the tee on the 530-yard par-5 first hole at Sugar Hills Golf Course while home for spring break, mentally, she was more than a few moon shots from where she was just a few years before. Staring down the not-yetContinue reading “A Life, Back on Course”
Many know the one that ended in a famous statue, but there’s more Bobbi Jo Wright is famous in certain circles for being the girl in the statute, the one who was lifted up and held by the Shriner. But sometimes, there’s another memory that jumps past the event that led to the sculpture thatContinue reading “Bobbi Jo’s Second Story”
Lora looks back on two decades of treatment at the St. Louis Shriners Hospital Nearly 21 years after she first was carried into Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis, Lora walked out for the last time as a patient on a beautiful early summer day in June. She squinted in the bright sunshine andContinue reading “‘It Truly Was a Gift’”
Boy returns to Honduras with iPad, greater independence One morning in the not-too-distant future, Johan will leave his house and join his classmates on the walk to school in his mountainous home village outside Ocotepeque, Honduras. Slung on his back locked safely in a sturdy case will be an iPad donated to him during hisContinue reading “A Life-Changing Month for Johan”
Somehow, you’ve stumbled upon this little corner of the Internet. Now you’re trying to figure out exactly what’s happening here. Giddy-up. Let’s go. Who runs this site? I’m John Agliata. I am a professional storyteller, expert father and husband, certified life coach, decent boys basketball coach, amateur comedian and a good faker at a wholeContinue reading “A Beginner’s Guide to ‘Telling Stories to Live’”
So what exactly is going on here? Well, a lot. This website is various measures of creativity, therapy, safety, career exploration, vanity and insanity (plus a few mystery ingredients I haven’t quite identified yet) — all dumped into one glass, shaken (not stirred) and poured into a 32-ounce Big Gulp cup. To better understand whatContinue reading “What This Site Is All About, As Told In 38 Gifs”
As Zach prepares for his first ultramarathon, he sometimes finds himself 20 miles into a training run deep in the Redwood Forest with tears streaming down his blond-bearded face. It’s not pain from the grueling run or sadness from a sometimes difficult past that brings them. They are tears of appreciation that he, born withoutContinue reading “The Ultramarathon Man”
Farshid Guilak, Ph.D., has won what industry insiders call the Nobel Prize for orthopaedics – and it’s for the third time. The director of the Research Center at Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis earned this year’s Kappa Delta award from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) as he celebrates five years here.Continue reading “Trifecta of ‘Nobel Prize’ Awards”
What if, instead of addressing post-surgery pain with a pill or IV drip, a patient’s own cells could be triggered to prevent it? This is one of the goals of a new field of medicine created by investigators with the Research Center at Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis. It’s called “mechanogenetics,” and itsContinue reading “Stopping Pain from the Inside”
Robert had just moved to Houston in 2000 when he found out that cancer was going to claim his mother’s life. Shirley had been the one who was most there for him when he started his St. Louis Shriners Hospital journey in 1969. She had been the one who told him, when he was oldContinue reading “From Dislocated to Dancing”
They called him Big James, and when he was tracking down varsity quarterbacks as a high school underclassman in the state championships, he was a special sight to see – especially to those who knew The Story. The story that Big James was born with a right foot so disfigured his mere presence on the footballContinue reading “The Story of Big James”
On a Tuesday afternoon late last year, Lindley Wall, M.D., checked on the progress of Chloe, a teenager whose broken arm she repaired after a tubing accident on the Lake of the Ozarks. A day later, J. Eric Gordon, M.D., charted the next steps in treatment for Camille, a patient with a literally one-in-a-million leg condition calledContinue reading “Care from Routine to Rare”
When 5-year-old Marie Eva steps off the plane in the West African nation of Ivory Coast next month, she’ll walk into the waiting arms of a family who has missed her desperately for the past 15 months. Walk, not crawl. This ability to put one foot in front of the other comes thanks to theContinue reading “Ready to Return Home”
Jeff Cole walked into the Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis board room Tuesday morning, turning a small vial up and down, up and down in his right hand. He was met by a standing ovation. The hospital’s director of pharmacy had with him the 2021 version of a magic elixir – the Pfizer/BiontechContinue reading “They Got the Shot”
It’s a Saturday afternoon and Charles Goldfarb, M.D., is in his basement cracking himself up. Upstairs, his wife, Talia, knows exactly what’s going on: Her husband is editing his podcast again. Chuck, as Dr. Goldfarb is known to just about everyone, is a nationally-renowned hand surgeon at Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis, and co-hostsContinue reading “Dr. Chuck and the Pod People”
It was an ordinary afternoon in the lunch room of a Rochester, New York, elementary school, and all Ryan wanted to do was eat an apple like his classmates. Instead, the lunch room aide came over with a paring knife and cut the second-grader’s fruit into small pieces he could manage with his toothless mouth.Continue reading “Show Me That Smile”
A new study by investigators at Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis suggests the damaging effects of obesity are not due to body weight but rather come from something much smaller – biochemical signals released by fat cells.
On Christmas morning, Santa – who bears an uncanny resemblance to medical resident Alex Wendling – is scheduled to make a special stop at the inpatient unit of Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis. The jolly old elf has found the temporary home of a 12-year-old girl from Guatemala named Lucy. He will comeContinue reading “Lucy’s Shriners Hospital Christmas”
In a year in which physical presence has too often been replaced by sometimes fuzzy images of loved ones near and far, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty came through crystal clear Friday afternoon. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tall, baby-faced right-hander was unable to come into Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis as heContinue reading “Virtual Visit From a Cardinals Ace”
Scott Luhmann, M.D., is in the midst of a complex spinal surgery in a brightly lit, chilly operating room when he reaches up his hand and prepares to call for the next needed instrument. Before the words are even fully formed in the mouth of the chief of staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children —Continue reading “Anticipation Equals Excellence”
Hannah arrived in the United States on Christmas Eve last year, held in the arms of her new adoptive parents, Deanne and Matt. She stepped into a family filled with love, Christmas traditions and new siblings – three, to be exact – more than 8,000 miles from the orphanage in India she had called home.Continue reading “Stronger Bonds, Brighter Future”
It’s less than an hour before surgery, and Soumaila is taking deep whiffs from an oxygen mask that has been scented with cake batter. The mask isn’t hooked up to anything. It’s a replica that is part of a kit used by the child life department at Shriners Hospital for Children — St. Louis toContinue reading “Rewriting Their Stories”
Parents think of many, many things when they bring their child to Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis for care of lower-leg issues: medical history, insurance information and snacks for the drive to and from. Whether their child’s shoes will fit when the doctors and nurses are finished with their work usually isn’t oneContinue reading “If the Shoe Fits …”
Jasmine nestles her viola underneath her chin and takes a deep breath. She raises her bow and, as she glides it smoothly over the strings, warm, rich tones fill the air. The 11-year-old Evansville, Indiana, girl can get lost in the moment while making music. Thanks to recent surgery at Shriners Hospitals for Children —Continue reading “Back to the Beautiful Music”
Arrya’s eyelids were drooping toward sleep mode as she sat in her wheelchair with her bedazzled halo traction device holding her head upright. Having had surgery less than 24 hours before and just gone through a tough physical therapy session, the 6-year-old Kentucky girl was in serious need of a nap. Clutched in her leftContinue reading “A Hug From La-La Higgy Bear”
Physical therapists firmly stretched Karley’s surgically lengthened right leg, trying to get the last 15 degrees of bend out of her knee. Meanwhile, Karley was in outer space chasing puppies. “She’s not as tense,” said Karley’s mom, Kayla, as she looked at her daughter on the treatment table, virtual reality goggles running the Space PupsContinue reading “A World Away From Pain”
Don’t think of a purple elephant. You thought of a purple elephant, didn’t you? For Madison, a 16-year-old Murphysboro, Illinois, resident, something similar happened when radiology technicians told her to stand still for X-rays as she started scoliosis treatment 3 1/2 years ago at Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis. “When someone tells youContinue reading “Faster and Safer”
Chloe knew something was wrong in the first few moments after she surfaced in the middle of the Lake of the Ozarks. Seconds before, the 16-year-old Wentzville, Missouri, girl had been thrown from a tube dragged by a speed boat. She looked at her left arm, floating in the water, and willed it to move.Continue reading “Chloe’s Bad Break”
The first time Respiratory Therapy Manager Marcela Spraul tried to get Courtney to walk, the then-12-year-old simply refused. Now 17, Courtney is planning to follow in Marcela’s footsteps. The Olive Branch, Mississippi, resident was at Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis on Oct. 19 for a follow-up visit. She sought Marcela to tell herContinue reading “Deep Breaths, Deeper Bond”
The year was 1979, and Shari was a shattered 11-year-old girl. With a spine curved so severely by scoliosis that she struggled to lift her head to look forward, she was the target of her classmates’ abuse. “I would get kicked. I would get spit on,” she said, struggling to hold back tears even 43Continue reading “Finding the Beautiful Swan Within”
Rebecca is understandably nervous. In less than a week, she will travel the 29 miles from her St. Peters, Missouri, home with her 13-year-old son, Joey, to Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis for his yearly follow-up. Joey will leave his mom in the waiting room, and a radiology technician will take yet anotherContinue reading “What Will the X-ray Say?”
Natalie DeBarry was in the midst of her workday as a nurse in the inpatient unit of Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis when she stopped in to see Daniel. It wasn’t to check his blood pressure or stick him with any needles. Rather, she helped him into a wheelchair and took him outsideContinue reading “Turning a Hospital into a Home”
The fez-clad Shriner put the phone handset back in the cradle just after 7 p.m. and sat back in his chair, looking around in silence at the room of equally quiet socially distanced volunteers. Realization set in quickly: A record had not just been topped but obliterated during the 2020 Heroes 4 Kids telethon benefittingContinue reading “A Record-Shattering Event”
Jen Grab was having a tough day. When part of your job is battling finicky insurance companies over why potentially life-changing surgeries should be covered, it happens. But when she started talking about how the patient from Africa whose care she helped coordinate at Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis took the first stepsContinue reading “Constants in Care”
Narshare and her son Kareem are a long way from home. She pulls a sweatshirt more tightly around her shoulders as she watches her 18-year-old grind through physical therapy 12 days after major surgery at Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis. He casts aside his walker and uses crutches to slowly ascend and descendContinue reading “Going the Distance”
When he first heard about Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis, Tom was toiling as an undersized 6-foot-tall center on the Odin (Illinois) High School basketball team trying – mostly unsuccessfully – to guard the other teams’ behemoth big men. His coach organized a fundraiser to purchase toys for the hospital’s child life department.Continue reading “From Donor to Dad”
A tear slid down Ashleigh Bentz’s cheek as she opened the toolbox … a shoe horn, a pipe cutter, clamps. The tools that helped make Marvin Hohbein the master prosthetist that he was for decades at Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis now were held tenderly in the hands of a former patient who hadContinue reading “The Tools of the Trade”
Camille steps into Shriners Hospitals for Children — St. Louis on the first cooler day leading into fall with her mom, Shantay, in tow. Ms. Hollywood has arrived. The 3-year-old Evansville, Indiana, girl recently underwent the first of what will be three limb-lengthening procedures before she hits her teen years. “When she walks into aContinue reading “Meet Ms. Hollywood”