Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Seven-year-old double amputee becomes future US Paralympic hope thanks to new 'Blade Runner' prosthetic legs

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 3:25 PM on 10th March 2009
Comments (0) Add to My Stories Seven-year-old Cody McCasland has become one of the the US's brightest Paralympic hopes after having artificial sprinting legs fitted like 'Blade Runner' athlete Oscar Pistorius.
Sports fan Cody, who dreams of winning a gold medal in the games, was born without any tibia or knee bones, and had both lower legs amputated as a toddler.

Despite his disability he is already proving himself an amazing athlete with a busy schedule of running, swimming, football, golf, karate and ice hockey as well as being a boy scout, playing the piano, hand-cycling, rock climbing, kayaking, learning to jet-ski and even fly a plane.

Cody McCasland is already racing against able-bodied children, and hopes to compete in the Paralympics when he is older

Mother Tina McCasland, 36, said: 'We've always said whatever Cody wants to do, we will do our best to let him have that opportunity. He won't let his disability hold him back.'

Mrs McCasland and husband Mike, 37, an internet manager, from Colleyville, Texas, hope to bring Cody to London in 2012 so he can watch the Paralympics for himself, in the hope he will run and swim for his country at future games.
The determined seven-year-old, who is already gaining good times for his age range, said: 'I'd love to compete in three year's time at swimming.

'I definitely will take part one day and win a gold medal.'
Cody, who suffers from a rare condition called Sacral Agenesis, was born six weeks prematurely, and doctors had warned his parents that he might not live.

Children with the condition usually suffer from a number of difficulties including kidney problems and Cody had to undergo the first of his 15 operations at just three days old.
Over the next two years he faced operations for a dislocated hip, stomach, gall bladder and intestinal problems, a hernia, as well as treatment for breathing difficulties and asthma.

Mr and Mrs McCasland, who also have a daughter Callie, two, were warned by a specialist in Texas that Cody might need both lower legs amputated to give him the chance of walking with prosthetic legs.
Social worker Mrs McCasland said: 'He said the right leg was missing a tibia and knee cap.
'The fibula was not enough to support Cody's leg and without a knee, he could not bend it.
'His legs just curved round to the side when he was sitting and it just kind of got in his way.

'His left leg, looked more normal, but the knee did not bend. We were told there may be a chance of surgery to fix that leg but there was no guarantee of success.'
The couple decided to take Cody to see another specialist in Philadelphia who discovered that there were no tibia or knee bones in either of his legs, leading to a double amputation at just 15 months old.

When he was fitted for his first prosthetic legs two months later, he shocked his parents and doctors by managing to stand and walk on them the same day.

'Hardly anyone takes to prosthetics so well,' said Mrs McCasland. 'It was amazing - it was as if Cody had just been waiting for the chance to have new legs so he could walk. He was so pleased with himself.'
Over the next few months, his family gradually increased the amount of time Cody wore his legs so by the time he went to kindergarten he could wear them all day.

Now the seven-year-old has several pairs of legs, generously provided by the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, a specialist limb centre, including ones called stubbies for sitting and playing, walking legs and blades for running.

'They are very expensive and Cody seems to outgrow them all the time,' said Mrs McCasland.

'We're very lucky that we have this specialist centre which provides the running legs, as health insurance doesn't do that. The legs are not available to people in many areas.'
Cody added: 'In my walking legs I can take big steps. In my running legs I can run very fast and jump on one leg.
'In my stubbies I like to play and climb in the playground.'
Thanks to his prosthetics, Cody takes part in activities with other children in his class and already beats some of them at running.
He is a member of his school swimming team, competing against able-bodied youngsters despite using just his arms.

Mr McCasland said: 'With the help of Challenged Athletes Foundation Cody will be able to travel to other areas and compete against others like himself at a higher level.
'Each year we take him to the Endeavour Games which is an international competition for children and adults with disabilities. He won gold medals in the 60m and 100m sprints this year and gained a fast enough time to enable him to compete in the National Junior Youth Disability Championships.'

Cody currently races against youngsters with just one artificial leg, but double amputees hope there will be a reclassification, allowing them to have their own category in the sport.
He ran 60m last year in 20.03 seconds, and 100m at 33.41 seconds, when he was just six years old. This means he was only five or six seconds behind single amputee record-holders aged nine.
Cody's times at freestyle swimming and back stroke are already impressive at around 30 seconds and 43.63 seconds. He has knocked 30 seconds off his freestyle time since starting swimming last June and is now only a short way behind the nine-year-old record holder.
He has already met his sporting hero, triathlete Rudy Garcia-Tolson, a double amputee who has competed in two Paralympics by the age of just 20.
The courageous youngster, who wants to become a doctor when he is older, said: 'I'm a non-stop runner and no-one can keep up with me.
'I'd also love to swim in a race against Michael Phelps or Rudy Garcia-Tolson one day.'
Cody's amazing achievements as a double amputee are inspiring numerous others from disabled children, to soldiers who have lost limbs in Afghanistan or Iraq.
'We receive lots of requests from people wanting to meet Cody,' revealed Mrs McCasland. 'It really is incredible to see this little boy walking up to grown men and telling them they can do all the things he does.
'Soldiers are just like big heroes to Cody, so he is so excited to meet them. And in a way he's a little hero to them too.'
The young athlete has even inspired the creation of Team Cody, a group of fundraisers who compete in marathons, already raising $95,000 for the Texas Scottish Rite Children's Hospital.
Team Cody has also raised $4,000 for the Challenge Athletes Foundation, which helps disabled sportspeople.

'As long as Cody enjoys his sports, we'll go on supporting him,' said Mrs McCasland. 'We hope his story helps other kids and adults, and spreads the message that disabled people can do all these things.'

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