Nathan McDonald is what you’d call a Super Champ. Sixteen years old and from Bishop’s Falls, he’s been enrolled with the War Amps since he was three months old.
“He was born with what you call amniotic band syndrome,” said his mother, Lynette McDonald.
“Amniotic fluid sometimes latches on to the joints and in his case (resulted in) amputations.”
Nathan’s right leg has been amputated above the knee and he had to have some fingers on each hand amputated, as well. He also had a cleft palate and cleft lip.
“They fitted him with a knee socket, like a Terry Fox leg,” his mom said.
“After that, he walked his first step at nine months.”
It hasn’t slowed him down.
Nathan loves being outside, driving his ATV and snowmobile. He also plays broomball with the junior team.
He recently got his beginner’s driver’s licence.
With only a year left in high school after this one, Nathan is thinking about post-secondary education, and the War Amps will help.
“They pay a certain amount ... per semester for so many years,” said Lynette.
He’s been talking a lot about wanting to join the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, on the investigation side of things, his mother said.
Nathan’s family enjoys their involvement with War Amps.
“We went to our first seminar in St. John’s and it just went on from there,” Lynette said.
The family attended their latest gathering — the War Amps 2010 Multiple Amputation Seminar in Richmond Hill, Ont. — in November.
“He is enrolled in the Super Champs program, which was developed by the War Amps for multiple amputees,” said Lynette.
“He’s the only one here, I think, on the island who is a multiple amputee.”
At the seminar, Nathan was presented with a Champ Ambassador certificate for taking part in projects as part of War Amps Operation Legacy.
“Operation Legacy is basically getting more people informed about veterans who were involved with War Amps, who came back from the war and had missing limbs,” he explained.
Lynette said War Amps provides emotional and financial support, including transportation to and from prosthetic centres, and pays for Nathan’s prostheses, which can cost from $6,000-$10,000 apiece. It usually has to be replaced at least once a year.
Nathan has had about 20 so far.
“They have been pretty much there for us since he’s been born,” his mom said of War Amps.
She said the education seminars offered by the organization benefit the whole family.
“He gets to see his old friends that are the same, and two parents get to go,” she said.
“It’s not only a good opportunity for him, it’s a good opportunity for us to sit with other parents and see what their kids have gone through or are about to go through, and so forth.”
“Mostly, we just sat around and watched information videos on new prosthetics, adaptations for driving,” Nathan said of the November event.
“Other videos were about how some Champs have gone on and become very successful. It’s fun.”
“They’ll also have a session on teen talk where all the teens will get together with no parents around and discuss if they have any problems themselves, so that way they can speak it out amongst themselves and see how things are going,” Lynette said.
“It’s a good, informative weekend. It’s a lot of information that you have to gather and absorb. … It’s something that he enjoys going to, and so do we.”
Champ Ambassadors, like Nathan, are kids who have grown up with the War Amps, participated in sessions and become role models for younger children, his mother explained.
Nathan said he learned a lot of useful information at the latest seminar.
“(We learned) how to take care of certain situations when it comes to your prosthetics and whatnot; how to react to other people when they confront you and they don’t recognize what you’ve been through or are not used to you,” he said.
“It’s a road to independence and all the information that goes with it,” Lynette added.
“He has always been on the road to independence. Right from Day 1, if he fell, we wouldn’t pick him up. We would make him pick up himself. That’s what we taught him, to do it yourself, and then that way it made him independent.”