Houston couple determined 'Jackson Will Walk'

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - A child was born with a severe condition that doctors said would prevent him from walking, but his parents decided to try to find a way to beat the odds.

From the day Jackson was born, his family heard the words "can't," "won't" and "never."

They refused to accept it.

His father, Leon Pierce said, "I want him to be able to be a self-supportive, self-sufficient, productive member of society."

Early on in the pregnancy with their third child, Pierce and his wife, Torri, learned they would have an uphill battle.

Torri Pierce told Local 2, "We knew something was wrong by 17 weeks."

Little Jackson was born with bilateral tibial hemimelia, which basically means partial or total absence of the tibia or shinbone, turning his legs inward.

It happens in only one in a million births. To have it in both legs happens in only 30 percent of those cases.

His dad explained, "He didn't have an ankle joint in either leg."

The most common treatment is amputation.

Torri Pierce said, "One doctor told us, 'If you amputate now, he will never miss his legs. He will never know they are there. No way I could accept, 'Well, baby, they weren't going to work anyway so we just went ahead and did that because that was the best advice we were given.'"

Fueled by their determination, Jackson's parents combed the country for a doctor with a different opinion.

After hearing yet more nos and nevers, they finally found one in Florida who was willing to give their son a shot at walking.

Leon Pierce said, "I (asked the doctor), 'Any chance to have to amputate?' He looked at me and laughed and said, 'No, what are you talking about?'"

Jackson underwent surgery on both legs, spending seven hours in the operating room.

Leon explained, "Pins and screws are screwed into the bones."

Metal cages called external fixators were placed on both legs, slowly straightening them.

For his second birthday, Jackson is going to head back down to West Palm Beach to have the fixators taken off, and then he will be put into casts for about a month. Then he'll face more physical therapy so he can continue to grow stronger.

Jackson works with a therapist three days a week at TIRR Memorial Hermann's Pediatric Rehabilitation program and does more therapy at home with his family.

Every small step is a victory.

Leon Pierce said, "He should be able to behave and be involved in activities like most children."

Doctors said Jackson will walk and even jog.

It's a prognosis a long way from his first days, and Jackson is blessed to have parents who had the courage to defy the "can'ts," the "won'ts" and the "nevers."

Torri Pierce said, "I want him to be same way he is now, not know any big difference and to not let anything hold him back. He can do anything he wants."

Since Jackson's family members are transplants to Houston, they created a Facebook page so family and friends around the country can follow their son's progress.

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