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Local Athlete Receives Bone Transplant

Paragould Daily Press by Katelyn Brown

A year ago 13-year-old Jacob Whitby-Lange would have appeared to be just another seventh-grader on his basketball team running, jumping, and scoring but, by his eigth grade year at Paragould Junior High things began to change.

Jacob like most kids his age began hitting a growth spurt and complained of minor pain along the way.

His mother Lorie just assumed that it was due to growing pains but as time progressed so did the pain.

She began noticing that Jacob was almost in tears every car ride home from practicing basketball.

“Jacob just isn’t one to complain that often,” says Lorie

Between the car rides and watching him play Lorie knew that there was just more to it than growing pains.

“By the time we would get home his leg would have had time to cool off. It would lock up and take Jacob a few tries to be able to just walk again,” says Lorie.

Lorie took Jacob to Dr. Ron Schecter an Orthopedic Surgeon at NEA Baptist, who after seeing Jacob felt certain a bone in his left leg was dead and advised Lori to take him to Memphis to see Orthopedic Dr. Michael Neel.

Once in Memphis several MRIs and X-rays were taken confirming that the bone in Jacob’s leg was in fact decaying.

As Lorie took a closer look at the x-rays, she compared the readings to resembling that of mashed potatoes.

She explains that the reasoning behind Jacob’s condition remains a mystery because he never sustained any major or minor injuries as a child.

The only explanation Lori can give is that he grew so quickly while playing a sport such as basketball that blood was unable to properly flow to his leg. “It just seems like the perfect storm,” says Whitby.

Dr. Neel’s partner Dr. Kenneth Weiss has performed several surgeries at St. Jude’s Hospital for Children who because of having cancer have experienced similar situations with their bones dying. He agreed to take on Jacob’s case.

In May 2013, Jacob was enlisted on a donor waiting list to receive the use of a cadaver bone as it became available.

Dr. Weiss informed the Whitby-Lange family that Jacob’s wait for a bone may not be as long as other children because of his height and the ability to use an adult size bone instead of a child sized bone.

“We were just at the mercy of their call and fortunately it was not long,” says Lorie.

During class on Aug. 20, Jacob’s mom sent him a text message that read: “We got a bone.”

“I was excited and thought alright we are really doing this,” Jacob said.

On Aug. 26, Jacob underwent a surgical procedure called Osteo Articular Allograft, which allowed Dr. Weiss to go in and carve out all the dead bone and tissue areas and hammer in a cadaver bone in its place.

It was a 4 cm long area located under his femur bone, which is the bone that starts at the hip and ends at the knee.

Currently, the doctors are waiting for Jacob’s bones to calcify over the new tissues. Until then Jacob will continue to place absolutely no weight on his left leg to ensure proper healing can take place.

“It’s not fun, but I am getting use to it,” says Jacob, who is not allowing this to keep him down.

Since the procedure Jacob has been on crutches, but continues to cheer on his teammates during their ball practices as he continues to work on his shots from home.

Lori said that she often finds Jacob in their driveway sitting in a lawn chair shooting hoops.

“It has really helped me develop more strength in my arms, but I’m afraid once I get back out there I may shoot too hard,” says Jacob.

Basketball isn’t the only sport that has been made more difficult for Jacob.

Jacob is an avid bow hunter and having this procedure has limited his chances of killing a deer this season.

He must sit in a ground blind because he cannot climb up into a deer stand with his crutches.

“Sitting on a ground blind puts me at eye level with deer, so they can easily spot me and it puts me at a real disadvantage,” says Jacob.

Today, after eight weeks of having no weight on his left leg, Jacob will return to Memphis for Dr. Weiss to check the progress made since his surgery.

“I just want to be normal again and my overall goal is to be back on the court playing at the end of this season,” says Jacob.

 

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