Heartwarming moment boy who lost legs to one-in-a-million disease walks again
We all go through life hoping that we will never catch a rare and life-changing illness, but as we all know, life is notoriously unpredictable, and a person can go from being perfectly able-bodied to completely reliant on others for their care overnight. And as tragic as this is, we can all take comfort in the knowledge that we humans are a resilient bunch in the face of adversity.
Case in point, seven-year-old Romeo Hadley, from Cardiff, who caught a rare and devastating illness when he was just three years old.
What started out as seemingly innocuous flu-like symptoms, leg pain and bruising turned out to be purpura fulminans, which resulted in the bottom of his legs becoming gangrenous and leaving doctors with no option but amputation.
This is the heartwarming moment Romeo walked for the first time using prosthetics:
After the double amputation, Romeo had to spend six months in hospital recovering, and although he was eventually allowed to go home, it wasn't until October of last year that he was finally fitted with a pair of prosthetic legs.
His mom, Katie Hadley, 46, recorded the moment he took his first independent steps without the aid of a walking frame.
Romeo's parents Katie and Jonathan Hadley, also 46, had rushed him to the emergency department when he fell ill as a toddler. While in the hospital, he was diagnosed with the rare condition, which affects around one in every 500,000-1,000,000 births.
The symptoms of purpura fulminans include blood spots, bruising and discoloration of the skin, and when it is not treated, the affected skin can become gangrenous and potentially fatal, as was the case when Romeo contracted the disease.
"It's usually fatal, so he's an extremely lucky boy to be alive today," Mrs. Hadley told the BBC.
After Romeo's initial diagnosis, doctors cut into his legs in a bid to halt the spread of the diseased but it was to no avail.
"Day by day they were telling us not to think past the hour because he might not be with us," Mr. Hadley said.
Ultimately, the only option left for doctors was to amputate Romeo's legs in the hope that it would save his life.
"It was horrendous and I will never forget it," Mr.s Hadley said of the amputation. "Although that sounds devastating and awful we took him home and that was enough for us."
This is the heartwarming moment a deaf boy heard for the first time also thanks to modern technology:
Doctors had to anesthetize Romeo for three of the six months he spent recovering in hospital. "He had lost so much tissue and muscle so he had intense skin grafts," Mrs. Hadley added.
"We needed to wait for this to heal and Romeo also had to have a stoma to avoid infection in his stumps and buttocks." A stoma is an artificial opening in the intestines that allows fecal matter to pass out into a bag instead of through the rectum.
Because Romeo had to lie down while recovering from the double amputation in hospital, he struggled to sit up when he was initially discharged.
"We didn’t know if this was reversible but with time and encouragement he started building up his confidence and muscles," Mrs. Hadley said before adding, "He gets around very quickly now."
Romeo is pictured below before and after his amputation:
"They thought he could possibly be bedridden for the rest of his life," the seven-year-old's mother continued. "As time progressed he's proved everybody wrong and he's very mobile."
In order for Romeo to have prosthetic legs, a belt had to be attached to his stomach so doctors had to wait for his stoma surgery to be reversed.
It wasn't until March of last year that the youngster finally had plaster molds for his prosthetics taken.
"Jon and I were emotional wrecks. This is the moment Romeo went from 'they aren't my real legs' to 'I'm as tall as my friends'," Mrs. Hadley said. "He had us all laughing with this sense of humor and loves his Adidas trainers."
However, life hasn't been entirely plain sailing for Romeo since he got the prosthetics and because his stumps are small, he struggles to walk for prolonged periods of time because of their weight.
"Romeo's stumps are very small and his prosthetic legs are heavy. To use them he has to use 100 per cent concentration," Mrs Hadley said. "The mechanism on the leg needs him to use the heel of his foot to keep them straight and the ball of his foot to unlock and bend."
"For him to achieve 20 minutes a day is quite amazing."
"They may not be functional for every day purpose, but it's making him have a core, which allows him to feel that he's walking," she continued. "If he can do that now, what can he do in the future?"
Despite his disability, Romeo loves playing football and dreams of becoming a professional basketball player.
"My husband and I are here to just make him psychologically strong enough to cope with life in the future," Mrs Hadley said. "Romeo loves life, he's gorgeous, and he's absolutely the happiness in this house."
"He gets on with life… he enjoys every single moment."
For now, Romeo's parents are hoping that further advances in prosthetic technology will lead him to lead as normal a life as possible in the future.
"That's what we're holding out for," Mrs Hadley said. "We stay very positive for Romeo because he is positive."
Who knows? At the rate Romeo's going at, he could compete for Great Britain at the Paralymic Games!