Not many girls can claim to have some of the most stylish legs in town, but Birch Harbor resident Jenna Colson can.
In fact, she has 10 of them.
That’s because when Jenna, now 7, was born it didn’t take nurses long to realize one of her legs was shorter than the other. The birth defect would mean a life full of doctor’s visits, surgeries, and pain for Jenna without intervention.
So when Jenna’s doctors referred the Colson family to a specialist who told them about the Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield, Mass., all the family needed was a sponsor. Franklin Shriner Danny DeWitt stepped up to fill that role.
“[Jenna’s] treatment would be a lifelong thing, so we definitely decided to look into [the Shriners Hospital],” said Danielle, Jenna’s mother. Without assistance, it would be an expensive venture. According to Danielle, each prosthetic leg costs about $20,000, excluding surgical and travel costs. With the help of the Shriners, the family pays only for travel and lodging.
Jenna’s first consultation occurred when she was three months old at the Shriners Hospital for Children Orthopedic Surgery with Dr. David Drvaric.
“They gave us two different options,” Danielle said. “One was to amputate the foot; the other was to take and break her foot and turn around and use the heel of the knee as the knee joint. We could have gone through years of operations where they would break the bones and stretch the bone. And even then it could still not be same length. It didn’t take me long to decide that amputation was what we wanted to do.”
That decision was life changing, Danielle said. “I can’t even begin to describe how nerve wracking it was,” she said.
For her as a new mother, the support of family, the knowledgeable doctors, and other parents helped by the Shriners was imperative.
When Jenna was 11 months old, Drvaric amputated her foot and fitted her with a prosthesis for the leg and foot. As Jenna grows, she receives follow-up care from Drvaric and the prosthetic doctors at the Hospital three times a year.
“She’ll keep going back until she stops growing,” Danielle said. “After that she’ll just need adjustments.”
The expertise of the doctors has afforded Jenna a leg that allows her to enjoy an active life. She plays basketball and softball at her school and is able to keep up with her friends, her cousins, and her 8-year-old brother Jaden.
“She is not scared to get dirty with the boys, but she loves to [play] dress up and do hair,” Danielle said.
And Jenna’s one confident kid when it comes to customizing her leg.
“She’s not scared to pick one of the craziest [fabrics] out there,” Danielle said. “She’s had everything from princesses to rock stars. Her current leg will last until December, then she’ll choose new fabric to cover the new leg.”
Jenna’s leg was initially secured in place with a belt, Danielle said. Over time, the belt caused permanent bruising on her hips. Jenna now has one that attaches using suction. Jenna has a special leg for swimming.
“She surprises the doctors a lot,” Danielle said. “They didn’t expect her to be able to walk on it, but she went right for it.”
The family gives back in any way it can, Danielle said. Family members collect soda can tabs and participate in various fundraisers throughout the year to help other families in need of help from the Shriners.
“When we were first going to the hospital, other parents would talk about what they’ve been through,” Danielle said. Now Danielle does that.
“I’m so glad we found out about the Shriners,” she said. “They’ve definitely helped us. We would never be able to do this [otherwise].”