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news News Wednesday, July 18, 2018 Wednesday, July 18, 2018 10:49 AM - Wednesday, July 18, 2018 10:49 AM

Shriners Hospitals for Children — Houston patient aspires to participate in Paralympics

Multi-talented teen makes the best of his time in the hospital, works towards athletic dreams

Shriners Hospitals for Children — Houston patient aspires to participate in Paralympics

Jesus in front of Shriners Hospitals for Children — HoustonWatching him balancing a soccer ball, one would never guess that 13-year-old Jesus has been using a prosthetic limb since he was 3. His athleticism shines through every time he kicks the ball, and he has ambitions to continue to develop his physical skills.

Jesus’ journey with Shriners Hospitals for Children — Houston began when he was just a baby. His mother, Marcela, recalled the mixed emotions she experienced when she sought treatment right after his birth.

“At first they told me he was born with a clubfoot, but soon after, they told me he was also missing the tibia, and bones in his arm,” said Marcela. “Doctors in our home region said there was nothing to be done and they talked about amputating almost his entire leg, but here at Shriners Hospital, I was told otherwise.”

When 3 years old, Jesus had an amputation performed at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Houston. They amputated at the instep on his left foot, leaving the heel of his foot intact. Even though he does not have a tibia (one of the bones that connects the ankle to the knee) on his left foot, amputating just the instep proved to be the best choice for Jesus.

Back home in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, Jesus was referred to a high-performance center where children and adults can train for the Paralympic Games. Though it was a financial struggle for the family to travel to and from the training center, they decided to make the effort and have Jesus attend regularly.

“They did a beautiful job on his amputation,” Marcela said. “The trainer that has been working with him at the athletics center said to him that he had been waiting for him for many years. He has not had another athlete with the type of amputation Jesus has.”

She explained that other participating athletes have amputations that go higher up on the leg, which causes them to get fatigued more easily. Because the heel of Jesus’ foot was left intact, this can potentially increase his endurance when practicing a sport.

“Since the opportunity to train at the center for the Paralympics came up, I really want to compete in something. Right now I’m practicing in running track,” said Jesus, “I also like to play soccer.”

Jesus was originally visiting the Houston Shriners Hospital for a planned surgery in February 2018, but after getting better X-rays and imaging, doctors and his family decided that bone lengthening was the best option for him. Gloria Gogola, M.D., pediatric upper extremity and hand surgeon at the Houston Shriners Hospital, has been treating Jesus for radial longitudinal deficiency since he was 2 years old. Jesus is missing the radius bone, making his forearm short, and he has a wrist deformity. He had the wrist deformity corrected and started receiving bone lengthening treatment for the ulna, the remaining bone on the forearm.

“With bone lengthening, we are recreating the normal bone growth in healing, so we do it very slowly. It’s not painful but it is time consuming. That’s the real downside of it, it just takes a long time,” Gogola said.

Originally, Jesus and his mother were prepared to stay in the hospital for seven days, but despite the change of plans, his mother said she is overjoyed with the progress. Their stay changed from one week to an estimated four to six months.

“It’s a long process but I know it will be worth it,” said Marcela. “Seeing his X-rays today and comparing them to when we arrived, I can see a huge difference; his hand is not curving anymore. We were not prepared to stay this long, but the equipment to monitor his progress is here and I know the doctors don’t want to risk anything or take a step backward.”

During his time at the hospital, Jesus has been going to school and learning English. Using an in-house classroom provided by the Houston Shriners Hospital for patients who stay for long periods, he successfully completed the required general education program that meets Texas state standards for public schools. In addition to studying and playing sports, he said he likes to sing and compose songs.

“He is such a great kid, he is always cheerful, he makes the best of any situation, and he is so smart and so capable. He does not let anything hold him back. He brings joy wherever he goes,” Gogola said.

Despite having spent more time in the hospital than originally planned, Marcela said they have felt at home at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Houston.

“We are very thankful with everyone,” Marcela said. “From the cleaning and kitchen staff, to the doctors and administrators, everyone has been just wonderful and caring. They treat us with kindness, and that takes away some of the stress of being away from home.”

Growing up, Jesus faced different struggles but his mother said that her goal has always been to empower him. Preparing him not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally, will allow him to live a typical life. She fondly recalls when he was a young boy he named his amputated leg “Boli,” which is short for "small ball" in Spanish, because that is what it looked like to him back then.

“I still remember when he was 3 and 4 years old, at first he didn’t want to wear the prosthetic, he would throw it across the room, saying he couldn’t do it,” said Marcela. “Soon enough, he was going to bed and forgetting to remove it. He adapted very well, it became part of him, it is part of him.”

In addition to participating in the Paralympics one day, Jesus aspires to have a career in computer engineering. His natural charm, the supporters behind him and his own determination are sure to make him very successful.