The little figure shuffles down the passage, arms stretched wide for balance. He approaches slowly, step by step until he reaches a couch in the lounge. “Look, Mom,” he says, beaming with pride.
Carefully, as if he can’t quite believe it, he takes another few steps with his arms swinging before clambering nimbly onto the couch and removing his shoes and socks.
It’s a big moment for Brandon Menezes. He looks like a two-year-old toddler but is actually 10 – and today he has managed to walk unaided for the first time since his surgery.
After years of health problems his legs were amputated almost three weeks ago and today Brandon proudly walks on his stumps.
Amputation would have been a catastrophe for other kids but for Brandon, who suffers from the dwarfism-related disease of diastrophic dysplasia, it’s the start of a new life.
Brandon was born with club feet and because it isn’t a rare disorder the doctor reassured Charlene and Reuben Menezes it was nothing to worry about.
Scores of X-rays and blood tests finally produced a diagnosis: Brandon had diastrophic dysplasia. The slightly flattened bridge of his nose, swollen ears, club feet and short arms he couldn’t straighten were symptomatic of the condition.
In the years that followed his condition deteriorated steadily. His hips, knees and feet turned increasingly inwards and he underwent yet more surgery.
“Brandon was in Grade 2 when he returned home from school one afternoon with a newspaper article on Oscar Pistorius,” Charlene says. They were working on a project about their heroes and the athlete with the prosthetic legs immediately caught Brandon’s attention.
“He asked why he couldn’t get legs like that. He could see his own legs didn’t work,” she says.
Charlene was shocked but promised to ask the doctor about it. Two years passed before she and Reuben would even consider amputation.
Before the operation doctors carefully explained the process to Brandon.
“It was great standing on my stumps for the first time but it was sad having to say goodbye to my legs.”
For now he must wear bandages all the time to help shape his stumps. When doctors are satisfied he’ll get the first sections of his prosthetic legs, which join the knee with the rest of the leg. He will also get one foot and a short section of leg so he can practise standing. The prosthetic legs will be lengthened every few weeks until he’s as tall as his 10-year-old friends.
Read brave Brandon's full story in YOU, 11 November 2010.