Landon Jolly, 16 months old, crawls around his living room floor happily playing with his toys. He picks up one of his small basketballs and puts it through the hoop, then scurries over to play with his toy manger scene. What's so great about that, you might ask. Sounds like a regular kid, right?
When Kyle and Kim Jolly, Versailles, found out that they were going to have a baby, they were ecstatic. They married right out of college and shortly thereafter, decided they wanted to go ahead and start their family. Little did they know that it would be four years later before Kim would become pregnant with little Landon.
"We found out there was something wrong at the 20-week ultrasound. They sent us to Good Sam to check his blood flow and everything and his chromosomes. From the ultrasound results we knew he had a clubbed foot on his right and it also looked as if his femur was bowed," said Kim.
Kyle and Kim were later approached by Bud Huntington, a local member of the Southeast Indiana Shriners in Dillsboro. He told them that when the time came that he wanted to sponsor them through the Shriners Club and help them with anything that they could.
Landon made his way into the world on July 22, 2011. He was full-term and weighed eight pounds, four ounces. It was soon discovered that he had a condition known as Tibial Hemimelia, which means "missing tibia," which is why his foot was clubbed. Dr. Ed Reese prepared Kyle and Kim shortly after Landon's birth for what they could expect. He told them that they were going to hear a lot of words like amputation and prosthetic.
"Your tibia actually forms the inside ankle bone, so since he didn't have that ankle bone, the foot twisted in," said Kyle. "Then come to find out that he was missing a few other bones because of the missing tibia. What they thought was the bowing of the femur wasn't really a bow. They called it a bi-fracture. He actually had a y-bone coming off of his femur toward the inside of his leg. They aren't positive but doctors think that the tibia actually started forming off of the femur, but there is no way of really knowing for sure."
"I have an uncle that is missing his foot and ankle," said Kim. "They had to amputate that."
It was also discovered at birth that Landon had another condition called Lobster Claw, which means he had an extra bone between his knuckles on one hand. Doctors surgically removed the bone and began work on his hand.
"There was a big separation here so he had a finger way off to the side and it started to curve in," Kyle said. "I guess it's just the body's natural way to try and get it closer. So, they had to break the index finger and twist it back to normal, then they put a couple of pins in it and skin-flapped his hand to pull that finger back to where it's supposed to be."
In addition to the problems with his right foot and hand, Landon also has an extra toe on his left foot.
"I actually had an extra toe when I was born, so it's hereditary. Mine was removed when I was six months old. I really want them to take his off, but the doctors want to wait to do that," Kim noted, adding that they wanted to focus on the bigger issues first.
The Jolly's went to several doctors and teams of doctors to try and see what they could do for Landon's foot.
"There were different options on the table. We thought maybe they could brace the legs or perform lengthening of the femur so it would eventually grow to the same size of the tibia. They also thought maybe they could put a rod in there, but they would have to change that out a lot," said Kyle. They told us that if we went with any of those options, that the chances of Landon losing his leg down the road were very high, because by the time kids are seven or eight, they start getting too much body weight and the bone ends up breaking."
After talking with lots of medical professionals, the Jolly's ended up at Shriners Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. While there, they were able to talk to another mother and daughter who were going through the exact same condition. They got to see her with her prosthetic and witness all of the things she was able to do with it. However, they still hadn't yet made up their mind on what to do.
"I finally point -blank asked the doctor, look I've been told so many different things, just tell me straight up what needs to be done. She just looked us straight in the eye and said, 'I would do the amputation, because I think it's going to cause you less heartache down the road and I don't think it's something we can save long-term," said Kyle. "They (the doctors) said if we do it now, he's going to grow up learning to walk with a prosthetic and it will be second nature. And, at this age, they don't have any of the phantom pains because they're not used to using it. He doesn't have that memory."
The more people they talked to, they discovered that the ones who chose amputation were happier. The kids went through less surgeries and were able to just start being kids, instead of always being in a hospital.
Landon's amputation was performed on September 17, which left him in a half-body cast until October 27.
"The doctor told us it's going to be a long couple of weeks. He's not going to be able to do very much," said Kyle. "Within three days, he was crawling around. He even went to the Pumpkin Show every night and rode some rides. "
On November 12, Landon finally got to try on his new leg.
The Shriners covered the cost of everything insurance didn't cover, which was a blessing to the Jolly's. The Shriners are members of the Murat Temple and whenever Landon has an appointment in Lexington, they pick them up in Lawrenceburg and drive them there, as well as feed them.
"I tell everybody this story, because once I found out there were problems, I just started praying for happy-healthy. Just give us a happy and healthy baby. God answered, because other than the physical deformities, there's nothing wrong with him. He's happy as can be," said Kim.
"The other night we were at a basketball game and people came up to us and said, 'Oh we're sorry, I know this has been tough on you guys' and I said, "No, he doesn't know any different. He just goes on, if some other kids are doing something, Landon will find a way to do it," Kyle said.
Prosthetic doctors told Kim and Kyle that their goal is to have Landon walking by Christmas or at least taking a few steps.
"He's getting better at it. Having the hand surgery with a heavy cast on it slowed him down and he couldn't get his balance very well. We just got that all off on Wednesday (Dec. 12). The last few days, you can tell he's wanting to walk a little bit more, but he still won't let go. He's still nervous about it," said Kyle. He might be about a month or so behind, but for the most part, he has hit all of the developmental stages pretty well right on. He's talking fine and everything,"
Landon's favorite thing is basketball. Kyle is a basketball coach at South Ripley, so the gym is pretty much their second home.
"He's been to a couple of practices with me and he is out on the floor. I mean if I don't have a hold of him, he'll crawl right out on the floor with the boys. He wants to be out on the floor playing basketball. He doesn't understand that he can't have a basketball and he can't go out there and shoot with them," said Kyle.
Other than that, he really likes his tractors. Both Kyle and Kim's parents own farms, so both grandpas have taken him on tractor rides. Everything that normal little boys would like to do, Landon likes also.
Landon did get to see Santa Claus, but that didn't go too well this year.
"My aunt just passed away and we took him to Tri Kappa to see Santa. The funeral was the same day that we took him, so he was very tired and it had been a long, emotional, exhausting day," said Kim.
"We sat him in Santa's lap and that was the end of it," Kyle added.
For Christmas, Landon wants a new basketball goal, as he is outgrowing his little one, so he can stand up and play. Kyle said that when he gets home in the evenings after ball practice, Landon will go get his leg and bring it to him and say, "ball," so they get down on the floor and play basketball for a little bit every night.
"Since it is Christmas time, I want to say that our faith has got us through it," said Kim. "Landon has been an inspiration to a lot of people."
"It's almost like a family joke, but when anything's kind of going wrong with the family or we're not feeling good or have things going on, we're like, 'well Landon had his leg cut off. If he can get through that, we can get through this,'" said Kyle.
"We even went through a spell a month and a half ago," said Kim. "We almost lost my mom (Donetta Benham). She was in ICU with an infection in her knee where her medicine turned toxic in her blood. So, it was within a matter of weeks that she went from being perfectly fine to being in ICU and they basically told my dad to plan the funeral. I kept telling them that she had to stay around to see him (Landon) walk. The night that we took the grandkids to see her, of course Landon wasn't there because I couldn't take him in ICU, but once the grandkids got there, she made a miraculous recovery," adding that doctors believe that it was the grandchildren who gave her the strength to pull through."
The Jolly's are very thankful to the Shriners and all of the people in the community who came together to help them.
We have had Caring from the Community, an organization that was started by our family and friends last year to help a local family with a child with problems with medical costs in Ripley County. They started an annual softball tournament last year for Landon. Olean Church did a turkey dinner and the kids at church did a penny war to raise money for Shriners.
St. Louis Catholic School, where Kyle teaches physical education, has done a couple of fundraisers for Landon and the Shriners. South Ripley also contributed, as well as many businesses.
"It's just been amazing. We couldn't begin to even list all of the businesses and people that have been there for us, and the churches. We are so thankful for the caring and support from the community," concluded the Jollys.
CINDY WARD PHOTOS
Pictured at left, Kim holds Landon as she secures his new leg in place. Below, Landon's dad, Kyle and mom, Kim, hold his hands as he peeks around them and takes some steps at his home. The goal is for Landon to be walking by himself before Christmas!