When Kennedy, now 9 years old, was born, her mother, Tatum Chirpich, 41, discovered that she had a very rare condition known as fibular hemimelia. Because of this, she had a deformity in her right leg and had to have it amputated when she was just 16 months old. From then on, the girl began to use a prosthesis and quickly learned to walk with it. At the time, doctors told the family that the condition was very rare and not hereditary, which meant that the chances of a second child also being born with the congenital malformation were like that of the “same person being struck by lightning twice.” ”.
- Baby born from incestuous relationship between siblings is born ‘genetically compromised’
Because of this, Tatum and her husband, Jeff Chirpich, 47, who are from Nashville, Tennessee, United States, were very shocked when they had a second daughter with the same condition. Dakota, now 3 years old, was also born with the malformation, although the chances of this happening were minimal: one in 1.6 billion. Dakota had to have both legs amputated in December 2022 and also needed prosthetics. Just like her sister, she adapted quickly.
Girls, according to their mother, can do everything that all other children do. For her, the girls did not “lose legs”, but gained mobility and were able to have a better quality of life because of the amputations. Instead of using the comparison of the same radius, in the same place, twice, the family prefers to see it from another perspective and say that they “won the lottery twice”.
“When Dakota was born with this condition, I was told I was selfish for having a second child,” Tatum said, according to reports. Yahoo News, from UK. “In movies, amputation is always portrayed as a problem, an ‘end of the world’ situation. So the misconception is that a child with an amputation is suffering because they are not physically capable. I get comments about my girls like ‘poor baby, Poor thing.’ But they can do everything any other child can do — in fact, they feel sorry for me because I can’t take my legs off,” he reveals.
Given what she experienced, now the mother wants to tell the story of Kennedy and Dakota to try to make people aware that amputation is not the worst possible scenario. “Sometimes it’s for the best,” she says. Tatum and Jeff still have an older son together, Casmir, 13, who was born healthy.
About congenital malformation
Fibular hemimelia occurs as a result of a genetic mutation and affects only one in every 40,000 people in the world. In Kennedy’s case, the condition caused his right leg to only grow to half its normal length because it lacked bone structure. Therefore, at 16 months, she had to amputate part of her limb and straighten her tibia, which allowed her to receive the prosthesis. “She was trying to walk at 6 months old, even with the difference in her limbs – she was reaching milestones before her brother. When she had just gone through the amputation, she kept trying to walk, even though she was in a cast – there was nothing that could stop her,” her mother recalls.
When Tatum became pregnant again, the couple never expected that their third child would have the same condition, which has no relation to heredity. But, to everyone’s surprise, Dakota was also diagnosed with fibular hemimelia. The family is one of the only ones in the world with more than one child with this diagnosis. Dakota’s condition was more serious as it affected both legs as well as one arm. At 2 years old, the little girl had the lower region of both legs amputated and the tibia bones corrected. “She also doesn’t have a bone in her left forearm, so it’s shorter. She only has one finger,” says her mother. “But that doesn’t stop her from doing anything – except counting to 10 on her hands. With both girls, we try to keep a sense of humor about these things,” she explains.
Tatum said that, to date, none of the girls have had any issues with being mistreated or bullied because of their disabilities. “Kennedy is in third grade and all the kids are so intrigued by her leg, they want to be friends with her. She changes the pattern every time she gets a new leg, every year, and all the kids think it’s really cool,” says mother of three. “The term ‘losing a limb’ is so negative – I don’t say my girls lost a limb, I say they gained mobility. If they had kept their limbs, they wouldn’t have the mobility they have”, adds the mother, grateful.