The pace is picking up for Sarah Czapp, a Wheeling toddler who was born with one leg. The 17-month-old has discovered how to motor along using a toy walker, shimmying her right foot back and forth to move forward. And on Monday, she will begin training in Erie, Pa., with her new pint-sized prosthetic leg.
If her track record is any indication, Sarah will be fully mobile in no time.
Ohio Valley residents interested in meeting this 16-pound powerhouse and helping finance her medical needs are invited to a spaghetti dinner in her honor from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday at Corpus Christi Parish Center, Warwood Avenue, Wheeling.
One-year-old Sarah Czapp of Wheeling uses parallel bars constructed by her dad, George, to maneuver on her one leg while her 3-year-old brother, Eli, coaxes her with her pacifier.
Sarah just keeps beating the odds. Doctors told her parents, part-time Ohio County Schools teacher Jocelyn and Jim Robinson Auto Group mechanic George Czapp, that something "went wrong" with Sarah's physical development in the fourth or fifth week after conception. They don't know exactly what or why. At 20 weeks, when they informed the Czapps the extent of the problems, they gave them the option to abort. They didn't. When she was a newborn, doctors didn't know if she would make it. She did. As an infant, she was not expected to roll over or crawl. She did, right on schedule.
Jocelyn Czapp has no doubt God has a plan for Sarah. She said she is constantly amazed at "His handiwork" manifested in Sarah. She has seen her captivating smile pull people in, she said, and touch their hearts.
"God has a plan for her. I don't know what it is yet. We're just sitting back and watching."
The past two months have been difficult for Sarah, her parents and her two big brothers, Eli, 3, and Garrett, 6. In January, Sarah underwent surgery at UPMC Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh to have her left foot - which was attached directly to her abdomen - amputated. This had to be done to make way for her new prosthetic leg. After the six-hour surgery, "she came out better than expected," Jocelyn Czapp said, adding that trying to keep Sarah still for 24 hours afterward was impossible. After 12 hours, she was crawling around on her hospital bed.
Sarah's pain persisted for nearly four weeks, however. The Czapps learned later it was "phantom" pain from her missing foot. Amputees often experience pain in the part of the body that has been amputated. Sarah was miserable. Now healed, she points to where her foot used to be and says "boo boo."
As soon as she was cleared by the surgeon, Sarah went to her first prosthetic fitting in Erie. During the second fitting, despite her discomfort and some tears, she walked a few steps while holding on to one or the other parent.
"The second time there she started to walk. I was so excited for her I couldn't even cry. It's so overwhelming," her mother said.
For the third fitting, the whole family including her grandparents were there, and her big brothers cheered her on as she tried out her new leg. They all got some R&R by visiting an indoor water park.
The prosthesis has been adjusted to fit Sarah like a glove, and the Czapps will head to Erie Monday for a week of training and physical therapy.
There have been setbacks. The most recent involves Sarah's right kidney. Doctors don't know why, but it has disappeared. They knew it was weaker and smaller than the left, but it has continued to shrink and has "dissolved," Jocelyn said. There's no explanation why it's her right kidney, on the side where she has a leg. She is expected to live a normal life with one kidney,
The spaghetti dinner proceeds will be used by the family to help construct a low deck off the back of their Warwood home and install a wheelchair ramp. Doctors said Sarah likely will get tired wearing her prosthesis all the time, so as she gets older and outgrows a stroller she will need to use a wheelchair. If there is additional money, it will be used to put a bathroom on the first floor of the home.
The Czapps are grateful to family, friends and the Wheeling community for their support.