Isaiah Parrish


Isaiah Can Do Anything

“Within the first week of getting his permanent prosthesis, Isaiah was right in there doing everything the other kids were doing. Pretty much anything he tries to do, he gets it done,” said his mother, Brandy Parson.

Isaiah Parrish was four years old when he arrived at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center on June 14, 2007.

“We were getting ready to leave the house,” his mother said. “The phone rang on the way out the door. Isaiah stopped for a second, then he went right out. My dad was on the lawn mower and Isaiah ran after him because he wanted to get on the lawn mower with him. My dad got to a place in the yard where he had to back up. He looked behind the tractor and didn’t see Isaiah there – when he started to back up he heard Isaiah screaming.”

The lawn tractor backed over Isaiah. His grandfather had to lift it off of him. His family grabbed him and jumped in the car. As they headed into town, they called for help on a cell phone. An ambulance met them and took Isaiah to Heartland Regional Medical Center in Marion, Ill. He was there less than 90 minutes.

“They didn’t keep him long,” Brandy said. “The helicopter came and took him to Glennon.”

At Glennon, Isaiah’s doctors determined that the injuries to his right leg were so severe that his leg would need to be amputated a few inches below the knee. That night’s surgery was the first of 13 that would be performed over the coming weeks by two of Glennon’s surgeons, Elizabeth Engel, M.D., director of pediatric orthopaedic surgery, and Aki Puryear, M.D.

“His wound was very contaminated. After it was closed it became infected and required multiple surgeries,” Engel said.

After a month in Glennon’s pediatric intensive care and transitional care units, Isaiah was admitted to the medical center’s rehab unit. Adrienne Tilbor, D.O., medical director of the Pediatric Rehabilitation Institute, directed his therapy.

“They were doing three to five hours of therapy a day, every day but Sunday,” Brandy said. “They worked on his upper body strength and got his hips stronger to help him support his weight because he would need to do more with his left leg.”

Isaiah’s mother and grandparents stayed by his side at the hospital. During the early weeks of his hospitalization, his mother struggled to think of a way to tell Isaiah of his amputation. “They had a large plaster cast on his leg the whole time. I was taking it really hard – how do you tell a four-year-old his leg and foot are gone?” she asked.

“One day he just looked at me and told me he knew his foot was gone. He said he remembered the accident. He proved to be stronger than the adults. When he told us he knew, we were able to start dealing with it better ourselves.”

Isaiah left Glennon on August 2 and returned on August 16 for further care of his leg and rehabilitation.

“That is when he got a temporary prosthesis and started on prosthetic training,” his mother said. “Being in the hospital was physically and emotionally draining. I couldn’t imagine that this could happen to us. But everybody at Glennon was great. They were more than willing to do anything they could for us. We finally got to go home on August 31.”

Brandy was understandably anxious when Isaiah returned to his Head Start program in September, when he also celebrated his fifth birthday.

“We explained to the other kids that Isaiah had an accident and has a prosthetic leg,” she said. “We took it off and let them look at it. As time went on, the other kids got used to it. A lot of them are protective of it – it is kind of neat that the other kids are looking out for him.”

Isaiah again proved his resilience by resuming the exuberant life of a pre-schooler.

“He can do anything a five-year-old does,” mom said. “He can ride a bike, run, skip, walk. At school they have a little playground with a merry-go-round. He runs and pushes it while the other kids ride. He always was a happy-go-lucky kid.

“He has the attitude that he can do whatever he wants to do. A lot of things he has to do his own different way. He started T-ball last year and wants to play again this spring.”

“Isaiah is performing age-appropriate skills independently,” Tilbor said. “He will need frequent evaluations as he grows due to bony growth issues and for observation of his muscle strength and gait pattern with the prosthesis.”

“He should do well as he grows up,” Engel agreed. “Kids accommodate very well to injuries that are sustained when they are young. I would just warn that riding lawnmowers are extremely dangerous. Children should stay inside while they are in use, and a child should never be allowed to ride on one. We have seen numerous horrific injuries from riding lawnmowers.”

Isaiah may need additional surgery in the years ahead. But, his mother said, “At this point they haven’t set any limits on him. They haven’t told me of anything he will not be able to do. His personality has not changed a bit. With him being in such high spirits, we don’t say ‘no’ to anything he wants to try.

“I keep saying, ‘The four-year-old kept the adults together.’ He has just been amazing.”