Seven-year-old bilateral transfemoral amputee Cameron Lutges is a runner. His father is a runner. He has friends who are runners. Do not let the fact that he has no legs fool you. Cameron was born to run. He most recently competed in the Endeavour Games in Oklahoma. There, he participated in the javelin throw, the discus throw and the shot-put. Of course, he ran as well. He competed in the 100 meter dash and the 60 meter run.
“I do it”
Cameron was born without developed tibia bones in both of his legs. After nearly 8 months of searching for answers, the Lutges family was instructed to visit Shriners Hospital for Children in Los Angeles. A definitive answer as to why Cameron was born without tibia bones in both of his legs never came. At Shriners, doctors assessed young Cameron and decided to amputate. He underwent bilateral transfemeral amputations at the age of 10 months. At the age of 1, he was fit with his first lower-limb prostheses. The prostheses helped Cameron gain balance and he soon learned to walk using stubbies and different sized prostheses as he grew bigger.
Alex, Cameron’s father, sometimes marvels at his son’s ability to adapt and learn. He should not be that surprised. It was Cameron’s parents who raised him to be independent. Cameron was taught to understand that if he wanted something, he should go and get it himself. Their philosophy may have made things a little more difficult for their son, but it taught Cameron how to independently adapt to certain situations. His parents felt this was a great way to show their son that he does not always have to wait for someone else to help him. Their son felt the same way.
“One of his first words or phrases that he would say all the time was ‘I do it,’” Alex laughed. “It sort of became his catchphrase when he was first able to speak. He would say it all the time.”
A strong finish
He may fall sometimes but Cameron and his parents never make a big deal about it. Everyone falls, the strong get up and move forward.
“There are times when he gets a little tired and he may trip,” Alex explained to O&P Business News. “He gets back up and takes right back off again.”
Every first Sunday in November, the town of Santa Clarita, Calif., where the Lutges’ reside, holds a Kid-K run. Every year, Cameron and his father participate in the run, his father carrying him most of the way. This would bother Cameron, who not only wanted to compete in the run but he wanted to win. One year, Alex noticed his son looked particularly down.
“I looked at him and told him that finishing the race is the biggest accomplishment,” Alex said.
Cameron looked back at his father, smiled and agreed. Alex would carry his son for a small distance, Cameron would run for a long distance and then his father would pick him up again. As they headed toward the finish line, Alex put his son down and told him he had to finish the race strongly on his own.
“He looked at me, smiled again and just took off,” Alex said. “He was one of the last ones, but that didn’t matter anymore because he had a big smile on his face.”
This November, Cameron will be running in the event for the fifth consecutive year. Thanks to the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), he will be running on new legs.
The Challenged Athletes Foundation
Cameron is an active participant in the CAF program, Catch a Rising Star, based in San Diego. The purpose of the program is to provide post-rehabilitation support and mentoring to individuals suffering from traumatic injury or congenital defect resulting in physical disability. The program provides access to resources and clinics to people of all physical challenges, ages and athletic levels, according to the CAF Web site.
Cameron is a regular at the Catch a Rising Star clinics. He participated in numerous clinics, including rock climbing. While hesitant at first, Cameron trusted his ability to adapt – something he has been doing his entire life.
“After a while of climbing walls and swinging on the rope he adapted very well,” Alex said. “And then he climbed like crazy.”
He also participated in swimming and running clinics at Catch a Rising Star. He would run at the clinics with his regular prostheses. They would hold up well, but a runner needs his legs. Thanks to a grant through the CAF, Michael Davidson, CP from Loma Linda University Medical Center was able to give Cameron his greatest birthday gift.
Four days after his seventh birthday, Cameron was fit for running legs.
“He received them at noon on April 20,” Alex explained. “I had to go home, so I picked him up 5 hours later and we went to the park. He was running around all over the place as if he had them for years.”
By the time Catch a Rising Star held their sports clinic, Cameron was ready to run. At the clinic, CAF members showed Cameron how to run properly in his new prostheses and they even showed him how to play a few new sports.
“They had him playing golf,” Alex said. “He did pretty well actually.”
One of Cameron’s friends is fellow 7-year-old bilateral transfemoral amputee and CAF member, Cody McCasland. Cameron’s kindergarten teacher saw McCasland featured on a television program and told the Lutges family about him. The Lutges family got in touch with the McCasland family and a friendship sparked instantly.
“We met with the McCasland family while the kids played in the park,” Alex said. “They played together all day.”
On the horizon
“I’m kind of athletic myself so I look forward to showing Cameron all the things he can do,” Alex said. “Pretty much anything he tries, he does well.”
Cameron is an active participant in the martial arts, specifically jujitsu. He currently is preparing for a triathlon with his father. According to his father, Cameron has also been bit by the baseball bug.
“He’s been talking about wanting to play baseball,” Alex said. “He’s already a good hitter. Right now he just has to learn how to get his feet set up in order to run. He’ll get it.”
No doubt about it.
Anthony Calabro is a staff reporter for O&P Business News.