HOUSTON - With his bright eyes and sly smile, little Jackson Pierce knows how to light up a room.
But, unlike most soon-to-be 3-year-olds, he spends his mornings in physical therapy.
Yet he never complains.
His father, Leon, told Local 2, "That's what helped me and my wife get through all the steps that we had to take for him. He's always positive."
Jackson was born with bilateral tibial hemimelia. It's the partial or total absence of the tibia or shinbone. It happens in only one in a million births. In less than a third of those cases, patients have itt in both legs.
Before Jackson was even born, his parents were told he would never walk. The best recommendation was amputation.
His mother, Torri, told Local 2, "One doctor told us, 'If you amputate now, he will never miss his legs. He will never know they are there.'"
Leon Pierce added, "We knew it was going to be hard. We didn't even know the road for which we were going to travel, but I was just mixed with a little bit of cockiness as well. Just, 'OK, we're going to do this.' There was no doubt in my mind that we were going to do this."
Faced with countless "no's" and "nevers," Jackson's parents found a doctor in Florida willing to give Jackson a shot at walking.
After extensive surgery, fixators were placed on Jackson's legs, slowly straightening them.
When we introduced Jackson to viewers last February, the response was overwhelming especially on Facebook, where a page called "Jackson Will Walk" updates his progress.
Leon Pierce explained, "His Facebook page blew up after the first story ... and we have some really, really, good supportive people that check on him every time I post something online about him and how far he's come. They're right there. People are praying for us all over, literally, all over the world."
Torri Pierce added, "Sometimes we'll be out at a restaurant and people will say, 'Hey, that's Jackson!' and he's waving like he's a celebrity!"
High hopes were dashed this summer by a heartbreaking setback: Jackson broke his leg playing on the couch with his sister.
After three months on the mend, Jackson took his very first step in October.
Torri Pierce recalled, "He was in his walker at the time and, I guess, something was a little bit further than where he could actually get to it. So he just started walking on his own and we all started screaming!"
Leon Pierce said "We were like, 'Wait a minute. Did he just start walking to the door?!' Everybody just kind of screamed again and scared him and he fell, but it was a joyous moment."
Since that moment, Jackson's growing stronger every day, using his walker less and less.
Jackson does physical therapy at TIRR Memorial Hermann three times a week, but other than that, he shouldn't need any more procedures and surgeries whatsoever.
Torri Pierce said, "I'm ecstatic! I really don't have words for it. It's just a really, really good feeling."
Leon Pierce added, "What got us through is, obviously, God for one, and No. 2, just keep on. Keep trying even when you get set back, keep focused on your goals and your accomplishments and what you're trying to do."
The Pierce family said they have so much to be thankful for and Jackson is hoping there will be a tricycle under the tree this Christmas.
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