GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Chris and Dedi Malfer knew six days before their daughter Samantha was born that life would never be the same.
Doctors told the couple she had fibular hemimelia, the absence of the small bone in the lower leg, and would need an amputation below the knee. Now five years old, Samantha wears a prosthetic leg on her right side.
“We live a different life than people, but unless you’re around us to see it, they don’t have any idea,” said Dedi.
But just because life is a little different, doesn’t mean it’s worse.
“Samantha owned being an amputee,” she added.
It’s not always easy. Insurance only covers some of the cost of a prosthetic, and because Samantha is still growing, the Malfers need a new one about every six months. A new prosthetic costs somewhere in between $10,000 and $14,000.
“You’re very limited in what’s available,” said Chris.
And because there are few young amputees in the West Michigan area, Samantha could feel the sting of uniqueness.
“We’ve just had some incidences where Sam kind of gets her feelings hurt,” said Dedi.
But that doesn’t last forever. Not long ago, the Malfers learned about Camp No Limits, a non-profit foundation that, for a few weeks throughout the year, offers a camp environment that teaches young amputees skills to lead a healthy, confident and independent lifestyle. It also provides support for parents and siblings, including seminars on the latest ways to deal with the difficult task of caring for someone with an amputation.
“Sam loves to be around other amputees,” said Dedi. “That camp has just changed Samantha back to her old self by owning being an amputee.”
When her parents picked her up after her first camp, "she’s got her leg pulled all the way up, and she’s running around showing it off to everybody,” said Chris. “That was a big change for her.”