Riding a bike for the first time is a dream come true for Jamison Jeffries
Eight-year-old Jamison Jeffries was riding high recently, after being presented with his first bicycle by benefactors Dave Pott and the staff of Uncle Rich's Pawn Shop. Not only is this Jamison's first bike, a major milestone in almost every adolescence, but due to a physical disability, this particular bicycle allows him the first opportunity to actually get on and ride.
Jamison, the son of Chad and Natalie Jeffries, was born with proximal femoral focal deficiency, a rare, non-hereditary birth defect, affecting the pelvis and proximal femur. It is associated with the absence or shortening of a leg bone and lack of a kneecap. In order to walk under his own power, Jamison implements a prosthetic appendage. His current prosthetic does not bend, simulating a knee, which makes walking and running more of a challenge. This also makes it almost impossible for Jamison to ride a regular bicycle.
A third-grader in Jenna Power's McMillan elementary class, Jamison is known as a strong math student. Though he played soccer and baseball last year, his greatest triumph thus far is learning to ride a bike.
His mother said, "We never hold him back. We at least let him try. I know it's a huge deal for kids with deficiencies to be able to do what the other kids are doing. Besides that, every dad wants to teach their son to ride a bike."
The bike is a tandem made up of a Cannondale M300 mountain bike for Mom and a modified child's Trek for Jamison.
The Trek doesn't have a front wheel and is connected to the frame of the Cannondale below the seat by an attachment that was donated by Dave Pott.
Pott received the attachment from a friend who works in the bike industry and was happy to help. He formulated the project after Jamison told Pott he'd never ridden a bike. "The next thing I knew, I was getting a call that there was a bike ready for Jamison," Natalie said.
"It touches my heart that I'm able to help out an individual who wasn't able to have the abilities that most of us are normally able to," Pott said. "The smile that I saw on his face really is something I'll take away from that forever."
Jamison rides behind his mother and doesn't have to worry about steering, but he can help pedal, which Natalie will be grateful for once they embark on his latest ambition: riding the Katy Trail. "His dad has put that in his mind," Jeffries said. "But, we want to be prepared before we get on the trail and start riding." Teal Lake and Lakeview parks will serve as Jeffries training grounds for the Trail.
"This is the best day ever." Jamison exclaimed repeatedly as he and Natalie rode the new bike in front of Rich's Pawn Shop. Owner Rich Whipple donated the Cannondale, assembled the modified Trek and bridged the two together.
Whipple wasn't able to be there for the maiden ride, but made sure everything was in order before he left on business that day. He said his wife cried as she watched Jamison and his mother roll down the sidewalk, "So, I'd say it was a pretty good feeling."
Having already undergone surgeries on his hip and foot, Jamison is currently preparing for a third, known as a Van Ness rotation. In this procedure, a portion of a limb is removed, while what remains is rotated and reattached. Hopefully, this will enable Jamison to use a prothetic that bends at the knee, granting him increased mobility and the potential to ride a bike on his own in the future.
Jeffries was very proud of Jamison after his most recent surgery last fall, in which she said Jamison showed more concern for the well-being of his new friend, Taylor Carr, than his own. The two met through physical therapy. She was undergoing surgery in the same hospital as Jamison. "I thought it was really something that he was thinking of Taylor, even when he was on the way to his own surgery," Jeffries said.
Unfortunately, recovering from the coming procedure will keep Jamison from participating in sports this summer, but Natalie said the new bike will "do wonders for therapy."
If Jamison graduates to a solo bicycle, Natalie plans to give the tandem to another family. "We've got a lot of calls from other parents with kids in similar situations who want to know if their kids can ride a bike too. I plan on donating it to a family who has a child with similar birth defects to Jamison."
Jeffries said Shriner's Hospital in St. Louis, a nonprofit children's care facility has played a substantial role in aiding Jamison's development. "We can never repay them for what they've done for him."
The family would also like to remind Mexico residents that April is Limb Loss Awareness Month and encourage people to "stay open-minded" when they see children with birth defects, such as Jamison. "These kids are pretty fabulous and have bigger hearts than I can imagine.
"When people see him for the first time, they don't know what to think. Then they see him take off and jump on a trampoline or run. I don't believe most people anticipate what he is capable of. When they see, it can be very humbling."