Catholic teen amputee finds strength to overcome challenges
Jake Thompson (R) poses with a Wounded Warrior teammate. Photo courtesy of Thompson family.
Jake Thompson (R) poses with a Wounded Warrior teammate. Photo courtesy of Thompson family.
By Bob Kelly/Catholic Sports Association
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.- Laura Thompson had been through the emotional rollercoaster before when she was told by doctors that her daughter was going to be born with a cleft palate before being born without one, and now, in her doctor's office, she gets news that her son will face a life of uncertainty due to a rare physical condition.

It was almost two decades ago when she was on her back in the doctor's office getting an ultrasound about a week before Christmas when her doctor told the expectant mother that he saw a fibular malformation called Fibular Hemimelia.  It is the developmental anomaly characterized by the absence or gross shortening of all or part of the limb.

"I guess we all doubt our inner strengths until we are faced with this kind of a situation," Thompson said.  "The doctor walks in with x-rays and said we have problems that we have to talk about, and at this point you are not sure what is going on or what needs to be done.  It is tough when you find out that your baby is not perfect."

Jake Wesley Thompson was born on May 18, 1996, to his parents Curt and Laura Thompson, on a day that would end up testing her Catholic faith and taking it to heights she never knew was possible.

She remembers when she brought home Jake from the hospital knowing that he did not have brain damage and how important it was to her because she would have the opportunity to bond and connect with him.  Yet, she still had a good cry thinking of all the ridicule that he would face in his lifetime.

He was born with only three toes and not enough foot to work with for the doctors when they suggested to have it amputated, which was eventually done when he was eight months old, and got his first prosthetic when he was 15 months old. 

His parents and everyone else eventually found out that Jake had his own plan on how to deal with it.

One of Jake's first memories of having a prosthetic leg was when he was in kindergarten.  He soon knew that he was not like most other kids.

"I remember when the prosthesis fell off when I was in class and everyone started to laugh at me," Thompson said. "I remember being hurt and asked why am I so different."

Thompson remembers another time when he went to Hawaii at nine years old, in the fourth grade, and his prosthesis got wet.  He soon overcame the situation with a realization that would get him through that moment and still is a big part of him today.

"I remember thinking that it does not matter that I only have one leg because I am here with my sister, mom, dad and best friend, and I did not care about my situation or feel sorry for myself because I had them in my life," Thompson said.

The 16-year-old is now a junior at Marana High School in Tucson, Arizona, where he starts at third base and pitches for the school’s baseball team, the Tigers.  He goes snowboarding with his friends in the mountains over Christmas break, never letting any kind of physical impairment become a setback or deterrent to reaching his goals.

He also is a member of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team where he plays with those who have lost limbs in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Desert Storm.  He received a call in April 2011 to be a batboy for the team, but eventually was invited to play when he found out he was too old to be a batboy.

"I felt honored to be able to play with these guys in this chance of a lifetime," Thompson said.

"These are guys who went into battle and through a lot more than I did.  I realized that if they can re-learn how to do many things for everyday life, then I can too."

Jake's mom said that her son playing on the Wounded Warriors Softball Team has given him the inspiration to overcome his physical challenge.

"He has related how it feels so good to be in the company of others who he can relate to and understand his situation," Laura Thompson said.  "He is so motivated to be a better athlete and became more motivated to be better to others especially after seeing other amputees who were worse off than him."

Besides being involved in athletics, Jake is a member of the worship band at church, where he has played acoustic and electric guitar since he was 13 years old.  He has learned how to read three different types of music from sheet music, chord chart to a tab and along the way learned how to play guitar by receiving lessons from Grammy award-winning artist Gabriel Ayala over the past four years.

Thompson's favorite Bible quote comes from a combination of being alive and his passion of music and playing it for God.  That passage is from Psalm 150:4 which is "praise him with the tambourine and dance: praise him with stringed instrument and pipes."

Posted with permission from the Catholic Sports Association, an organization dedicated to highlighting Catholic sports professionals and enriching junior high and high school student-athletes with Catholic sports articles, conferences, a Web series, and other programs.

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January 25, 2015

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