Unfortunately for me, my dad documented every cringe-worthy moment on VHS tapes that somehow emerged at any large family gathering, creating a highlight reel of adolescent angst that will haunt me for years to come.
So, when I met Samantha, the mom of our 12-year-old recipient Landon, I expected to hear endearing horror stories of her middle school son. Instead, she smiled, her whole face lighting up as she said, “Landon is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. He’s always been the kindest kid. He’s very empathetic, sweet, and non-judgmental. He’s amazing.”
In any circumstance, that tells you what an awesome person Landon is. But when you hear more about what he’s experienced in his short 12 years, it’s even more inspirational.
After a 20-week ultrasound appointment, Samantha’s doctor told her that her unborn son was missing his fibula in both legs. The fibula is the outer and usually smaller of the two bones between the knee and ankle, parallel with the tibia. It was difficult to see what else was happening with his development, but they knew enough to know the bones weren’t forming properly.
When Landon was born, Samantha looked over to where her son lay in the warmer and watched as he brought his hand up to his face. She squinted to see more closely, realizing he had just one finger on his right hand. The medical team also gently explained that in addition to his missing fibulas, Landon had only three toes on each foot.
“It was overwhelming,” she said. “We went to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and they said he had a very rare disease called Femur Fibula Ulna Syndrome. The physical anomalies were challenging, but we had to deal with other more threatening issues first.”
By the time the family was back home, Landon was wearing a hip-to-toe cast every single day. It needed to be changed every six weeks, and he was in it for an entire year. 12 months in a hip-to-toe cast.
Did that slow Landon down? Not in the slightest. He even learned to walk in it at just eight months, well ahead of established milestones for typically developing toddlers. Around that same time, doctors began talking to Samantha and the family about amputation, theorizing that it might actually help him with his mobility.
“We wanted to try every other option in the book first,” Samantha said, “And we also wanted to wait until he was old enough to make the decision himself. We wanted to give him a chance.”
They did just that, enrolling him in multiple therapies and trying leg braces and pain management to buy him more time.
He took that chance and (literally) ran with it. Landon was able to run and keep up with other kids for a few years until around age 6 or 7 when he began having more pain and was unable to stay as active.
Still, he kept persevering, attending mainstream classes and making friends everywhere he went. That kind heart of his was always shining through.
Early last year, though, Landon told his family he was ready. It was time to proceed with amputation and try to start life with his new prosthetics and less pain.
After Landon made his decision, the entire family went to therapy ahead of the surgery, ensuring they could all help support him with this huge life change. The procedure was successful, and both of Landon’s legs were removed from about the calf down in what’s called a bilateral Syme amputation.
“The recovery process has been much harder than we expected,” Samantha shared. “His right leg took much longer to heal and not in the way they thought it would. He was fitted for his prostheses, but it’s been really painful for him to wear them because of that right leg.”
Doctors estimated that it could take up to a full year for him to heal properly, sending the family back to those early days with the 12-month hip-to-toe cast. But remember, if you give Landon a chance, he’ll surprise you.
Today, he still attends mainstream school, wearing his prosthetics for about two hours before heading to the nurse’s office to switch into his wheelchair.
And while he could probably keep operating like that for the foreseeable future, he was hoping for a little more. And we were hoping Chive Charities and our donors could give it to him.
You see, Landon’s wheelchair doesn’t fit through doorways very well, and it’s hard for him to navigate the multiple floors and hallways in his middle school. The solution seemed easy enough – Landon needed an electric scooter. Finding the extra money to pay for one, though…well, that was another situation entirely.
They would also need an accessible vehicle to help transport Landon and his medical equipment. So one night, Samantha started looking around on the internet, searching for grants or assistance for amputees. The Chive Charities website popped up and gave Samantha her answer.
Through the support of so many thoughtful and kind donors, we were able to fully fund both the electric scooter and a silver 2019 Dodge Grand Caravan ADA van for Landon for a total impact of $49,586. (Thanks, Dallas, and the team at AMS Vans for making the process so seamless!)
The impact was immediate, and Landon has especially loved that he has more independence and can even sit in the front of the van with his mom. Now, instead of worrying about how to navigate his way around the school, he thinks about ideas for his next YouTube video.
Landon started a channel to show other kids how he adapts, filming everything from his diagnosis journey to how he cleans his room with two prosthetic legs, with even more still to come. It’s quickly becoming apparent why he’s so well-liked. (See his channel HERE, thanks to permission from his mom.)
The kid with the kind heart finally had all that he needed to keep persevering. We can’t thank you enough for making that happen for him. All he needed was a chance, and you gave it to him.
We’ll leave you with some wise words as only a truly exceptional middle schooler could express:
“If you’re a kind person, people will see that regardless of any physical limitations or challenges.” We see you, Landon. And we’re rooting for you.
And for all those reading this hoping for a chance of their own, we know this community will continue to be there to do everything possible to make it happen. Join our movement to make the world 10% happier and DONATE HERE.