Michael Comer is a 17-year-old farm boy from Indiana. For the past 14 years,
he’s been coming to Shriners Hospital for Children in Lexington.
When he was 3 years old, Michael and his older brother were playing follow the
leader behind their grandfather’s riding mower.
Michael was run over.
"I lost half of my knee and three of my toes," says Michael, who can’t
remember the actual day when the accident happened.
"About ten years ago I used to have all kinds of nightmares until I got
Michael got more than therapy. Thanks to the Shriners Hospital for Children
he received a new kind of left leg and knee. The accident "cut half the
growth plates out of my knee, which made my leg grow crooked. So they killed
the rest of the growth plates in my knee, so my leg doesn’t grow as fast. About
every five years or so they have to go in and lengthen my leg to make it catch
up with my good one."
Three times, after "growth spurts," surgeons at Shriners Hospital
have lengthened Michael’s left leg.
"They go in and they put a device in your leg and then they go in and cut
the bone and, as that bone grows back-it’s a very soft bone that re-grows in
there-and they just stretch that."
"Is it very painful to have it done?"
"I have a very high pain tolerance."
Michael will be home this Christmas with his mother and father, Pam and Duane
Comer. Their 300- to 400-acre family farm produces corn, beans, cattle, and
Michael’s favorite food: his mother’s creamy beef and macaroni followed by elderberry
pie. President of his Future Farmers of America club at his high school in Greensburg,
Michael wants to be an agricultural diesel mechanic.
"Tell me a little bit about your mother and father."
"I think they’ve been supportive in the right way. Dad usually lets me
fix stuff that’s wrong at home."
"How is your walking affected?
"It hasn’t really affected me that much. I do everything. Sometimes I do
"And the three toes that are gone?"
"They’re just gone."
"No problem with balance?"
"No, they say you don’t need toes for balance. If you don’t have fingers
they’ll take toes and make fingers with them."
"How tall are you now?"
"I’m about 5-10, 5-11…if I have a growth spurt I’ll just come down here
and they’ll put a lift on the bottom of my shoe and make it taller so that my
legs will be even."
"And your roommate, Juan, from Guatemala? How is he?"
"He’s 18 years old. He has prostheses for an arm and leg. He was run over
by a train."
Shriners Hospital for Children in Lexington does over 2,000 special pediatric
orthopedic procedures a year at no cost to the patient. A network of 22 Shriner
hospitals throughout North America is funded entirely through the Shriner endowment
fund, a philanthropy that has made a big difference in the life of 13-year-old
Emily Grace Highley of Bath County.
Daughter of Pam and Eric Highley, Emily was born with scoliosis, an abnormal
lateral curvature of the spine. An eighth-grader, she’s had 16 surgical procedures,
including the insertion of a metal rod in her lower back. Before Christmas,
another rod was planned for her upper back. "I’d be bent over without the
rods," she says, smiling. Last October, Emily was wearing a "halo"
with a 25-pound weight to keep her neck and back straight.
"How long have you been coming here?"
"Ever since I was 3."
"What is your career goal?"
"To be a small-animal veterinarian."
"Will you get to go home for Christmas this year?"
Tinsel on your halo for Christmas, Emily Grace Highley! And may all children
and their parents everywhere experience the joy of this season of love.