Ski trip builds confidence for young amputees

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by ARNOLD PAYNE

WFAA

Posted on January 16, 2011 at 7:24 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 18 at 3:50 AM

Seventeen-year-old Candace Darden and William “Skeeter” Phillips, 16, are two of 14 teenage amputee patients who have been chosen to participate in the 30th Annual Amputee Ski Trip in Winter Park, Colorado.

For the past 29 years, medical staff and chaperones from Texas Scottish Rite Hospital have taken a group of amputee patients to the renowned National Sports Center for the Disabled for a week of skiing, and -- more importantly --  a week of bonding with other kids from the same walk of life.

Candace was merely four years old and “Skeeter,” as he likes to be called, was only six when their young lives were unexpectedly altered forever.

While examining some X-rays following a broken ankle, Candace's doctors diagnosed her with osteosarcoma, a common bone cancer. Several months later, doctors amputated her leg just below the calf.

It was Easter morning 2001 when William Phillips Sr. and his young son Skeeter decided to head out and cut the lawn. For unknown reasons, Skeeter decided to jump from the riding mower. He lost his left foot in the process.

“No one knows why I jumped from the mower, but I can say without a doubt that my dad saved my life that day,” Skeeter said. “My dad is a retired Vietnam Veteran helicopter pilot and is knowledgable with emergency medical procedures.”

After stabilizing his son’s injury, Phillips decided not to wait on an ambulance and instead opted to make the drive himself from Forney to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. Skeeter said his dad made the 25-mile drive in only 15 minutes, and that alone probably saved his life.

Just like Candace and Skeeter, each of these kids arrive with their with their own personal story and journey. Doctors and staff say they are hopeful that this trip will foster a sense of self-confidence, discovery and independence for each child.

The trip is available at no charge to patients' families with the help of American Airlines.

Both Candace and Skeeter say as a result of their past, they now have such a different outlook on life. These two teens agree that simply having the time to visit with other amputee patients is the most valued and rewarding part of the ski getaway.

“The ski trip reassures my confidence in myself and reinforces my ability to do the things that other kids are able to do,” Candace said.

Somehow I have to believe, this is just what the doctor ordered.

E-mail apayne@wfaa.com

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