When Kyle McKim of Trenton was born in Ellsworth in 1993, a future in athletics seemed inconceivable — but with the excellent medical care he received at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield, Mass., he played three varsity sports in high school.
Kyle was born in 1993 with an ectrodactyly gene, which left him without a tibia in his left leg. “He had no knee or ankle joint,” said his father, Tony McKim, who was a Master Mason at Lygonia Lodge No. 40 A.F. & A.M. in Ellsworth at the time. He is the chief operating officer at the Bar Harbor-based First Bancorp.
A local Shriner “referred us [to the Shriners hospital] as we were looking around” to learn “how to deal with this condition,” he said. Tony and his wife, Wendy, took Kyle to a Shrine mobile clinic at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor later that year; Kyle underwent screening and x-rays, and Shrine medical specialists studied several medical care alternatives.
Kyle required multiple surgeries: Minor corrective surgeries for a hand and his right foot took place before his first birthday, and the amputation of his left leg occurred when he was 1. “We were there all the time. Wendy stayed with him [in his room] the whole time” and slept in a chair that unfolded into a bed, Tony recalled.
The McKims traveled to the Springfield hospital “a number of times” and also visited mobile clinics in Bangor, Biddeford, Lewiston, and Portland “in the last 19 years,” Tony said. Some visits involved checkups, others specific medical care.
Shrine specialists fitted the young Kyle with a prosthesis, which in his childhood had a non-flexible knee and a straight leg, Tony said. Sometimes a prosthesis would be lengthened, at other times replaced with a new prosthesis.
“He’s probably had 15 different legs and knee joints,” Tony said.
Kyle underwent a few other surgeries over the years; throughout all his treatment, the Shrine hospital provided his medical care for free. He was the second of four brothers; for parents raising four young children, the free care “was very important to us,” Tony said.
During their trips to the Springfield hospital, the McKims met many hospital employees. “They’re great,” Kyle said. “I’ve never encountered one that wasn’t nice and helpful to the patient and the family members.”
“Every person that we encountered [at the Shrine hospital] has been fantastic. Even the younger people who are learning the ropes seem to have picked up on the excellent bedside manner,” Tony said.
His orthopedist in Springfield wants Kyle to receive one more prosthetic leg before he “ages out” of Shrine medical care when he turns 21.
He has put his prostheses to hard use over the years. Kyle started playing basketball when in the third grade; he later played varsity basketball for a year at Mount Desert Island High School and also played varsity baseball for three years. Besides covering first base, he also pitched, with a fast ball being “my best pitch.”
With his prosthesis, “I can almost do a whole split when I try to catch the ball when playing first base,” Kyle said. However, “I cannot run backwards very fast” with a prosthesis, he pointed out.
His first two years on the MDI varsity baseball team, the Trojans reached the Eastern Maine Class B prelims, losing the initial game the first year and advancing to the semifinals against Waterville the next year.
Kyle also played on the MDI golf team during his junior and senior years.
He put his body and prostheses to the test while playing sports. “I broke a lot of stuff they gave me,” Kyle said, a smile playing at his lips.
Not many Maine high school athletes play with prostheses, but Kyle never heard a critical comment from a teammate, opponent, or coach. He wonders if some students “like me” might be afraid to play sports; “they are nervous of what people might say if they don’t perform the way they’re expected to,” Kyle said.
An incoming sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, Kyle wants “to go to school to be a prosthetic practitioner” and “potentially work at the Shriner hospital to help kids who are going through what I went through.”
His oldest brother, Tyler, recently became a Master Mason at Lygonia Lodge, and Kyle wants to join the Masonic Order some day. Tony McKim became a Shriner in the mid-1990s. He now serves as an Anah Shrine ambassador, speaking to other people about Shrine-related activities, including the children’s hospitals.
“I think there are people who don’t realize what is available to them” in terms of Shrine medical care, Tony said.