Special to the Gardner News
Unlike accidents that cause unexpected and instant serious injuries, major health issues can also sneak up on individuals without warning and eventually they alter lifestyles. Age is no barrier. Sometimes there are examples in our own community.
Take 10-year-old Justyn Newman of Gardner.
Justyn was an active 9-year-old boy a year ago, who had long looked ahead to participating in competitive sports at higher and higher levels. He began playing soccer when he was 3 years old. By the time he was 6, he was playing youth baseball, basketball and flag football.
Soon after the 2011 baseball season began, his parents, Patrick and Kelly Newman, Gardner, started noticing that Justyn wasn’t hitting and fielding the ball as well as he had previously.
When his parents asked Justyn if he felt there was something wrong, he revealed that his left hip was gradually hurting more and more. They first thought he was experiencing so-called juvenile growing pains.
Within days however, he was walking with a limp.
The Newmans took their son to their primary care physician. X-rays were taken and the doctor soon delivered the bad news: It appeared that Justyn had contracted a rare children’s disease, known as Legg-Calve Perthes.
The Newmans were referred to a specialist, who then referred them to another specialist for a second opinion. The bad news continued.
Doctors projected that Justyn would never participate in sports again. The Newmans were told that there were no other doctors in the Kansas City metro who had the knowledge or experience to handle the young boy’s medical case.
After studying up on the disease and searching the internet, the Newmans were able to make contact with a doctor at the Shriners Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, who specializes in the disease.
After further x-rays, the St. Louis specialist confirmed that Justyn was the victim of the rare disease.
“Justyn did have Legg-Calve Perthes Disease in his left femoral head,” Kelly said. “(The doctor) also went on to tell us that with hard work, continual therapy and a positive attitude, Justyn would eventually be able to function very close to normal again. That is what we needed to hear.”
At the initial visit in St. Louis, Justyn and his parents were at the hospital for six hours. They met with interns, physical therapists, x-ray technicians and prosthetic doctors. The prosthetic doctor measured and fit Justyn for a pair of braces that he was to wear every evening and night for six-to-eight hours to keep his left hip and femoral head abducted as far as possible. It also meant that Justyn would be using crutches and a wheelchair during daytime hours.
Justyn now has therapy two or three times a day for 20 minutes. He does leg stretches and back stretches. He also has water therapy twice a week for an hour at a time.
He attends his sister’s soccer games where he can cheer her and her teammates.
It’s taken considerable time, but Justyn understands the need to wear his braces each night when he goes to bed, Kelly said.
Along with Justyn, his parents and his 8-year-old sister are remaining positive and looking to the future.
Justyn’s health situation has created financial hardship for the family. There have been several trips back and forth to St. Louis, and there willb e more for at least another year and a half.
Trips to St. Louis must be taken every eight weeks for additional x-rays, bone scans, therapy updates and physician consultations. Doctors say it will take about 18 months for the bone to ossify and mineralize to regrow.
Patrick, Justyn’s father, was unemployed for a time soon after the diagnosis. That greatly reduced the family’s income. Kelly has been able to take personal leave time from her job at Moonlight Elementary School.
To aid the family at this time, a group of co-workers, friends and acquaintances have organized a benefit at Gardner Aquatic Center. The Healing Waters-A-Thon will start at 8 p.m. on June 8 at the pool. It will feature the big splash, belly flop and cardboard boat races.
There will also be a silent auction, food vendors, activities at Cornerstone Park and a free drive-in movie at the adjacent Johnson County Fairgrounds beginning at dark.
Visitors should bring lawn chairs.
The event runs from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Gardner Aquatic Center and Cornerstone Park. Guests may enter the various pool competitions online at www.wix.com/justynnewman/healingwatersathon.
Special judges will include Justyn himself, former Chiefs player Anthony Davis, a University of Kansas basketball player, as well as Gardner Edgerton High School football players and cheerleaders.
To defray expenses for the Newman family, a special fund has been established at Gardner National Bank. Contributions can be mailed to: Justyn Newman Fund, c/o Gardner National Bank, 840 E. Main St., Gardner, KS, 66030.
Healing Waters-A-Thon to benefit local boy with rare disease