April 10th, 2019 | Published in Amputee Stories
To see Courtland Pelt climb the monkey bars, play soccer, ride his bike, and wrestle his older brother, you would not think this 10-year-old is a below-the-knee amputee.
“He’s a positive kid,” says his mother, Michelle Hughes. “His attitude is, ‘this (limb loss) isn’t going to stop me.’”
Courtland became an amputee two years ago after he was run over by a riding lawn mower.
“We were at a friend’s house, and Courtland was lying in a hammock,” recalls Michelle. “The person riding the mower told Courtland to shift his weight on the hammock, and he would mow around him. But Courtland was just eight years old, and not heavy enough to do so. He flipped off the hammock and into the path of the mower.”
Doctors at Memorial Hermann Hospital tried for 10 days to save the leg, using skin and muscle grafts, but there was not enough blood flow. On day 11, Courtland was amputated below the knee. On day 12, he was home again.
“I’m a nurse,” explains Michelle. “The doctors told me Courtland would do better at home.”
While Courtland underwent outpatient rehabilitation at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Houston, he was introduced to an MPI practitioner specializing in lower extremity prostheses and above knee designs.
“A BK amputee has an advantage because he still has the use of a knee joint, which is priceless,” the prosthetist said. “Having a knee joint means the balance is better, the prosthesis is lighter, and the time for rehab is shorter.”
At their initial meeting, Courtland learned how a prosthesis would help him get up and running again, and how it would be fabricated especially for him. However, Courtland was hesitant at first, convinced the leg would hurt him.
“Though an artificial limb shouldn’t hurt, we are putting forces on the limb that are not natural, so there might be initial discomfort until a patient becomes accustomed to it. But a prosthesis should never feel painful.”
Although a child’s prosthesis has the same components as an adult’s – liner, socket, foundation components, and foot – Courtland’s was fabricated to allow for his natural growth. This was accomplished in part by utilizing distal pads in the socket, poured in place using RTV silicone with a foaming agent that cures to the consistency of a sponge. The RTV fills in any gaps in the socket to provide a custom fit. When a pad wears out, a new pad can be easily poured, accommodating changes in growth. For additional strength to accommodate a child’s level of activity, the wooden-core exoskeletal prosthesis is lined with carbon fiber. Courtland currently wears the basic SACH (Solid Ankle Cushion Heel) foot.
“Courtland didn’t like the prosthesis at first and wouldn’t even look at it,” his prosthetist recalled. “But we convinced him to give it a try while using the parallel bars in our office. After he adjusted to it, he became very active. It’s been an amazing transformation. Now, he’s running all over.”
In fact, Courtland has been so happy with his prosthesis that he designated the day he got it as the leg’s birthday, which is properly celebrated every year on August 13.
“Courtland had adjusted very well to the leg,” Michelle says. “And, every time he would be challenged by his therapists to run, jump rope, or climb steps, he would respond.”
Michelle recalls how on his first day back at school, the teacher gave Courtland a chance to tell his classmates about his prosthesis. The children didn’t have any questions, but eagerly exchanged information as several spoke up to say they had uncles, grandparents, or knew someone else who was an amputee.
On the playground, Courtland was challenged by some classmates who said he probably wouldn’t be able to climb the monkey bars. Courtland responded by climbing the bars as quickly and easily as anyone else on the playground.
“We’re positive about everything,” Michelle says. “His brother, Blake, now 14, who also witnessed the accident, treats him no differently. They fight and wrestle and do all the activities you expect brothers to engage in.”
Michelle notes that Courtland is very patriotic. Now, his leg sports an American flag, which was laminated to the prosthesis by MPI. “Quite a few of our patients have their prosthesis design personalized in some way,” Josh notes. “When Courtland’s ready for another design and his next prosthesis, which will most likely include a dynamic response foot to keep up with his active schedule, we will be happy to accommodate him.”