The Douglas County Reign Football team has a very special ball boy who had a tough fight the first years of his life, but has such a good attitude about it you can’t even tell he is disabled when you talk with him or see him along the side lines of the games.
I have been very fortunate to be invited to write for the Douglas County Reign Non-Profit Semi-Professional Football team, this past season. Stephany Azar, Co-Owner of the Reign, told me she had a “special person” she wanted me to meet and write about. The very first game I attended, several months ago, I met this enthusiastic young man named Malik.
Malik was born on December 6th, 2002. Prior to his birth his mother, Deidre, had 5 ultra sounds done during the pregnancy and thought she was going to give birth to a healthy little boy with two arms, hands, legs, ten toes and fingers with no problems. These thoughts, which were to be turned into reality, did not completely happen.
Right after his birth Deidre was told Malik had a clubbed foot or feet. A she was devastated when she heard he had missing toes and fingers too. At this point it was obvious no-one actually knew the extent of his deformities. She said she remembers them doing probably every test they could on him, from x-rays to check for broken or missing bones to ultrasounds checking for all of his organs, in the first 24-48 hours after his birth. From what she was told with all the deformities they found it appeared his mental capabilities were normal, at that point.
The weeks following his birth he was seen by several specialists. The first one was a geneticist. Along with some of their own research they found out he had been born with an inherited genetic condition which was caused by a mutated gene. He was tested for the most common mutated gene which may have caused his condition, but it turned out negative. With the millions of genes in the body they were told they may never know which gene(s) was/were affected, unless some more advanced testing is made available. The condition he may have is called Ectrodactyly, which is a congenital condition involving missing fingers or toes also, called split hand/foot or split hand/split foot malformation SHFM and sometimes called lobster-claw deformity.
Both of Malik’s hands and legs were affected by his condition. He was missing the large bone in the bottom of the leg, tibias, and still had the fibulas, small bone in bottom of leg, which only occurs in 1 in a million live births. He was also missing in opposition, the toes and fingers he had, meaning where his toes were missing he had fingers on his hands, but the fingers he had on his hands he was missing his toes.
After seeing the Geneticist he had several appointments with orthopedic surgeons. At age 9 months old Malik had a surgery on both hands to help close some of the gap in his hands which would enable him to use them better, which was successful. The only option they had for his legs was to amputate his legs at the knees, a bilateral knee amputation. Deidre wanted to make sure this was the right way of approaching this issue so she received a second opinion at what many people feel is the best hospital in the Nation. When Malik was 10 months old he had the surgery at The Denver Children’s Hospital.
According to Deidre the most devastating thing that has happened in her life was when her baby boy went into surgery with legs and came out with only half of them. Before leaving the hospital they met with a Prosthetist who was going to make his new legs. He went home 3 days after the surgery.
Malik had stump legs, which were just coverings on his legs with no knees, enabling him to get around as a boy of his age would, with legs. At the age of 4 received his first pair of walking legs with knees in them and went to physical therapy twice a week for a year, which enabled him to walk without a cane, crutches or a walker. He continues the therapy sessions for another few years to improve his walking abilities. He has also been fitted with a pair of running legs, which he wears at the football games.
He will have to continue with leg castings until he quits growing. He has not shown any other mental or physical limitations and has accepted his condition, no matter what anyone says to or about him. He is the way he is and only knows how to live life the way he is.
Malik is also featured with other disabled individuals in a commercial which started airing during the recent Summer Olympics on July 29th with MakeaHero.org, which I have added to this article, titled “Make A Hero Commercial 2012.” Malik appears at about the 42 second point with a handcycle. You can also watch it on YouTube. I have also attached a slide show of pictures of him during the commercial shoot near Boulder Colorado.
When Malik is not appearing in commercials or helping root the Reign on at a football game you might see him in the summer months at Washington Park where he gathers with his friends from Adaptive Adventures. Every other weekend they get together and ride their handcycles around the park together. Road Runners Sports holds fundraisers to help each of them get a bike. He will participate in an event called Jam the Damz on September 29th which is a fundraiser which helps raise money for three organizations to include Adaptive Adventures.
This fall he will participate on a sled hockey team with Colorado Sled Hockey at the Ice Ranch in Littleton. He belongs to the Little AVs team. The team has played at intermissions of Avalanche games. The team competed in the National Handicapped Tournament where they placed second. He might be small and does not score much but he is able to block the other players and directs the puck to his team mates to help them score.
I would like to “Thank” Deidre Regan, Malik’s Mother and his Grandmother Toni, for allowing me to provide everyone with “Malik’s Story.” I would also like to thank Stephany Azar for her contributions to this article and Shua Reign, they are the owners of the DC Reign, and the rest of the Reign Family for giving me the opportunity to work with them, which enabled me the opportunity to meet and work with this young man.
To view the video on YouTube CLICK HERE.
To view the complete set of photos and the MakeAHero.org Website CLICK HERE or visit: www.MakeAHero.org.