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North Dakota teen has new meaning for life post-surgery

April 16, 2018

WAHPETON, N.D. (AP) — Losing everything below his left knee wasn’t what Jacob Petermann wanted, but just like his entire journey, the Wahpeton sophomore is making the best out of his situation.

He has an entirely new view on life following the amputation surgery of his leg on April 2. Instead of letting life keep him down, the teenager is already up and walking.

“The PT said yesterday (April 3) she was going to make him walk and we probably thought what she was expecting was to walk to the door and get in his wheelchair, but he continued to walk three-fourths of this floor,” Jacob’s mom Connie Petermann said. “She said, ‘This is a record, by far. You’re making our jobs very easy, because we didn’t expect that.’”

The Wahpeton Daily News reports that it was the fifth surgery for Petermann due to a cancerous tumor in his leg. He broke it during warm-ups of a basketball game in Devils Lake, North Dakota.

Things so many people take for granted were long-awaited reunions for Jacob. Shortly after his maiden trip on his new prosthetic leg, Jacob’s next first was lying on his stomach. The day before he checked off those feats he stood next to his bed.

“We’ve just been told, ‘If he works hard enough, there’s nothing he can’t do.’ He’s already passed our physical therapist’s goal. His first day (of PT) he was walking, so he blew that out of the water,” Connie said. “She is more than happy that he’s doing so well. He just wants to complete what they ask of him. He’s so happy to stand and sit in a recliner. We’re just thrilled that we’ve made it this far. We’re thrilled that he can stand.”

Seeing Jacob stand was shocking for his family members, but more shocking to the nurses who didn’t know he was 6-foot-3 since he’d been bedridden since Jan. 12.

“A lot of the nurses were like, ‘Man, I didn’t know you were this tall,’ because none of them had seen him stand before. Since we’ve been in here he’s been laying down,” Connie said with a laugh.

Now that he can leave his bed he can participate in the hospital activities. He’ll likely be staying at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s hospital for at least a few more weeks.

“We toured the hospital and he can partake in some of the activities now because we can leave the room. That helps with the time and because it’s a children’s hospital they have kid-provided things a few times a week,” Connie said. “Tomorrow they have an ice cream social, crafts and stuff like that. At least he can go and get out of the room and see some other kids.”

Jacob will have two weeks of recovery from the surgery, which includes a minimum of three rehab sessions a day. After that he’ll start his next round of chemotherapy. The purpose of the treatment is for precautionary reasons, because Jacob didn’t have any cancer on the rest of his body. As much as he wouldn’t want to be doing chemotherapy again, it does get him closer to sleeping in his own bed.

“We’re going to be staying here the next two weeks, after that we’ll start chemo right away. After that very first session of chemo when he feels better, that’s when we’ll start going back and forth from Wahpeton and the cities. I’d say about three and a half weeks we’ll be coming home sometime after that,” Connie Petermann said. “How (the doctors) explained it to us is with the scans and the X-rays they are very happy and clear that there is no more cancer in Jacob’s body. This second, post-chemo is to catch microscopic cells and with anything there could be one or two left. They described it as ‘mopping up.’”

Jacob knows he’s still got a tough road ahead, but all he’s been through so far has him looking forward with a positive attitude. Same with his parents.

“He still worries about things and has a lot of pain, but he’s going to have a huge obstacle ahead of him,” Connie said. “Learning how to walk with a prosthetic his life is going to be something else, but as parents we have never been in a better position than we are now because of that peace he has and his gratitude of life.”

Throughout Jacob’s battle he’s been keeping up with his schoolwork every day. The hospital has a school teacher on staff who works with Wahpeton High School educators. He’ll make up a large portion of his classes in the summer, but his teachers have made it clear that he needs to focus on his health.

“For sure in three subjects we’re able to stay pretty much on top of. By the end of the summer we’ll have it complete,” Connie Petermann said. “The Wahpeton school system is amazing. The teachers that he has have all been willing to come out on their own time to make sure he gets caught up for next year in the summer. They don’t want him worrying about school. They take that stress off of us by providing that.”

Jacob said it isn’t difficult to look at his limb anymore. One of his biggest worries was waking up and looking at his leg. When he awoke his reaction was remarkable, because it wasn’t about his leg at all.

“He saw Jesus. He cried and cried and cried. He talked to him and he told Jacob that he was with him every step of the way. Father (Patrick) Parks was there and it was an unbelievable moment,” Connie said. “Jacob was in so much peace when he woke up and he was full of gratitude.”

Jacob had been awake after surgery for at least three hours when he discussed his experience. He said he wants people to know about his conversation, but he’s not comfortable discussing it yet. He said he’d never seen anything more beautiful in his life and has a whole new sense of peace.

“He said, ‘I’m going to live. I never understood before, but now I know.’ And he just wept. He saw something none of us have ever experienced. I don’t know how to explain it, but (Jacob) is so comfortable right now. He’s not crying over a lost limb. It’s not what he wants, but he’s so grateful he has a chance to live and all he had to give up was a leg,” Connie said. “I just can’t even explain it. God’s got a plan for this boy.”


Information from: Wahpeton Daily News, http://www.wahpetondailynews.com

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