Seb's first steps
October 25 2016, 1:26 pm

Sebastian’s birth was a bittersweet occasion. Though overjoyed to welcome their little boy into the world, it also meant saying goodbye to his twin brother Zachary, who had passed away in utero one month before.

Born at 27 weeks by emergency c-section, Sebastian was rushed to the RCH after doctors noticed that “something was very wrong was his left leg,” said Melissa. “I was only able to spend a few seconds with him before he had to be whisked away.”

Sebastian was admitted to the RCH Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). His femur was protruding through his skin and he developed several serious infections in his leg, including staph. The late Mr Ian Torode, a Senior Orthopaedic Surgeon, recommended immediate amputation.

“This wasn’t what we wanted to hear at the time, but he was right,” said Melissa. “After Ian did the amputation, Seb had one final infection. From then on we could just focus on him being a premmie and helping him grow stronger.”

Sebastian spent 88 days in NICU before he was well enough to go home, coincidentally on his original due date. During this time, surgeons repaired one of his heart valves and two internal hernias. As he grew stronger, Sebastian began to meet and surpass his milestones and at nine months showed signs of wanting to walk.

To help Sebastian get on his feet, Senior Prosthetist and Orthotist Phoebe Thomson coordinated the development of a unique prosthetic for him.

“My job is to provide the most suitable prosthesis that allows Seb to function to the best of his ability. Since he has a very short stump, we had to think outside the square and make something quite different from the normal prosthetic leg,” said Phoebe.

Phoebe worked with RCH prosthetic technician Doug Jeffreys to devise the best option for Sebastian. Their solution was a ‘socket’ that Sebastian steps into, and which extends around his waist and attaches to the leg. Seeing Sebastian with his new leg was another bittersweet moment for Melissa.

“It was so exciting, but at the same time, the reality that Seb needed a prosthetic hadn’t really sunk in before that moment. Phoebe brought his new leg out and I just burst into tears. Part of me was so excited and another was just devastated.”

Though Sebastian can’t quite walk on his own, he loves ‘Leggy’ and doesn’t want to take it off. In fact, Sebastian likes Leggy so much that Phoebe and the prosthetic technicians have had to adjust it over the years to accommodate for Sebastian’s growing size and height. However, Leggy isn’t the only key to Sebastian’s success.

“I like to say that the leg is only the beginning,” said Phoebe. “Seb is also cared for by physiotherapists, who are helping him learn to walk with it, and occupational therapists who make sure his family have the equipment and strategies to help him get around at home.”

Though it’s been a difficult journey, Melissa and Jai are grateful to the many clinicians and technicians like Phoebe and Doug, as well as the entire Limb Deficiency Team, who are working hard to give Sebastian the best care.

“They make such a difference to our life, it’s incredible. We have met such amazing people at the RCH and Seb will have incredible opportunities thanks to their help.”

For Phoebe, it’s helping patients like Sebastian that makes her job so special

“To be part of helping children like Seb take their first steps and share in those milestones…It’s why I love this job. I get to see these kids grow up and share in the joy of their successes and achievements. It’s pretty special.”

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