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news News Monday, January 11, 2021 Monday, January 11, 2021 3:19 PM - Monday, January 11, 2021 3:19 PM

Jacob’s story: On track for greatness

Jacob’s story: On track for greatness

When James and Rachel of Plymouth, Connecticut, adopted 19-month-old Jacob from China in 2013, they knew right away that there would be no stopping him. Despite being born without a right hand and right leg, Jacob was on the go!

“He was so active, crawling and rolling around the house,” Rachel recalled. “Outside of our home, however, we had to either carry him or put him in a stroller. We wanted him to have the freedom to explore the world more independently.”

James and Rachel researched health care facilities that specialized in pediatric limb differences and weren’t surprised to find the Springfield Shriners Hospital. “Two of our other children had already received great care there for other conditions. We knew that was where we needed to bring Jacob,” said Rachel.

One month after his adoption, Jacob and his family visited the hospital’s orthotics and prosthetics department (POPS) where they met with manager and certified prosthetist Brock McConkey, CPO. He explained that POPS staff members could create a custom-fitted prosthetic leg for Jacob. “We felt prosthetics would open up Jacob’s entire world,” said Rachel.

Within weeks, and just before his second birthday, Jacob took his first independent steps with his first prosthesis. “We cried. We couldn’t stop crying,” said Rachel. “We didn’t have Jacob in our lives when he was an infant so we missed so many of his ‘firsts.’ Being able to see him walk for the first time was a very special moment for our family.”

Shortly after, Jacob started running and hasn’t looked back.

Over the years, prostheses from Shriners Hospitals for Children — Springfield have enabled Jacob to swim and play T-ball and soccer, but running has quickly grown into a passion. When he was 7, he began competing in track and field events near his home with other adaptive athletes.

To support Jacob’s running goals, a family friend procured a running blade for him to wear. But when he experienced some hip discomfort and fatigue while wearing the blade, Rachel knew they needed to see Brock.

“The running blade is a great match for Jacob,” said Brock. “It’s a lightweight device that allows for enhanced flexibility, stability and durability to withstand a high degree of intensity and impact. Like any prosthetic device, though, proper fit is very important to prevent pain or injury.” Brock made customized adjustments to fit Jacob’s residual limb and soon he was off and running again.

Rachel noticed a difference right away. She saw increased speed, stability and, most of all, confidence. “He is pushing himself to a whole new level.”

Now 8 years old, Jacob aspires to one day compete in the Adaptive Track and Field Championships against athletes from across the country. “Prostheses have allowed Jacob to live his life to the fullest and follow his dreams,” said Rachel. “Shriners Hospital has truly transformed his life.”