By Dorothy Isted
Special to The Pioneer
A nine-year-old athlete in Fairmont is having the time of her life thanks to The War Amps.
Keira Neal had her right leg amputated as a toddler when diagnosed with cancer. Doctors were able to perform a remarkable technique called a rotationplasty, which gives her greater mobility than she would have otherwise. The middle section of her leg was removed and the lower section was rotated and reattached to serve as a knee. An ankle flexes in the opposite direction compared to a knee. The benefit is a functioning knee joint which allows running and jumping.
Keira has grown up using prosthetics to get around and was accustomed to the weight of an artificial right leg. She was recently fitted with a new running leg that is much lighter and Keira is happy with it.
I like it because I can run a lot faster, said Keira. And running is something Keira does a lot, along with swimming, skating and hip hop.
Kiera is a member of The War Amps Child Amputee (CHAMPS) Program, which makes her eligible to receive financial assistance for artificial limbs and recreational devices. Keiras mom Daphne Neal recalls how The War Amps have always been there for them. Their family was overwhelmed with the news of Keiras diagnosis and what would be required in terms of time, money and procedures. Several different organizations were involved, but, according to Daphne, The War Amps are: bar none, the best they dont ask questions, just this is (their) mandate to help children play and compete with their peers. They make sure it happens without any stress or burden on the family.
The running blade Keira received earlier this year cost $16,000, which The War Amps paid for as well as every medical trip into Calgary, including hotels and meals.
When Keira realized the comfort and lightness of her new leg she said: I started screaming! She was ecstatic and starting running in circles.
Executive director Danita Chisholm said their organization encourages Champs to develop a positive attitude towards their amputation and live to their full potential. Keiras determination and zest for life is an inspiration to all.
Kiera the youngest person in North America to have a rotationplasty is also getting into the movies. Her mom made a six-minute video for a surgeon who wants to show colleagues in Saudi Arabia how mobile this type of amputation can be. It can be seen online by searching Keira Neal 2015 on YouTube.
Keira is also now doing a campaign with the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Canada and the Warehouse One store.
Her older brother Ryan was in Radium one day and saw a girl go by who also has a rotationplasty. He chased after her and introduced her to his sister. Rayanne and Keira have become good friends. In fact, Rayanne was at the prosthetic office for an appointment the day Keira got her running blade. When she saw Keira racing around the yard there, she wanted one too and had hers within four weeks. Though Keira is five years younger, she inspired her friend.
Daphne reflected that The War Amps is a very impactful organization, making a concrete difference for families.
Were just really grateful for them, she said. Kids (who lose limbs to cancer or accidents) will live with that for the rest of their life and want to be just like their peers and The War Amps will help them.
Visit www.waramps.ca for more information.