In very appropriate matching “Trouble 1” and “Trouble 2” t-shirts, the Suarez brothers, Isaias, 6, and Jonatan David, 4, run around outside the Ronald McDonald House, rebelliously tip-toeing around puddles, using Krispy Kreme doughnuts as fuel—pretty typical behavior for young boys. You would never even notice that Isaias has two prosthetic legs.
According to his mother, Sarahy Suarez, and his father, Josias Suarez, Isaias barely notices it himself.
“I pay more attention to it when people stare than he does. It’s a mom thing. You worry about your children,” Sarahy says. “He doesn’t even mind it. People look or stare and he’s just like, yeah whatever.”
Even when Isaias was in the womb, Sarahy and Josias knew Isaias life would be different than most children. When Sarahy was 3 months pregnant with Isaias, doctors noticed his legs were clubbing. Four months into her pregnancy, doctors saw his tibia bone was missing, meaning Isaias’ legs would most likely have to be amputated after birth. Wanting a second opinion, Sarahy’s sister suggested they visit Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville, SC.
Sarahy and Josias left their home in Charlotte, N.C. and visited Shriners Hospital for Children for a second opinion. Sadly, the doctors at Shriners said the same thing.
Faced with some tough decisions, the Suarez’s stayed strong just like they now teach Isaias and Jonatan David to be.
“Don’t get me wrong, when they told me [about Isaias] I was sad. I cried a lot,” Sarahy said. “I was given the option at about 3 to 4 months pregnant if I wanted to abort. And it was not an option for us. If God sent my son to me like that, then that is how I was going to keep him.”
Although the Suarez’s could have chosen surgical rods for Isaias’ legs, they made the tough decision to have his legs amputated. The rods would have to be replaced surgically every time he outgrew his legs, and eventually the rods would puncture his knees, making it impossible to walk, placing him in a wheelchair.
“If he was in a wheelchair, he couldn’t be nearly as active as he is now,” Josias says.
Born 32 weeks into Sarahy’s pregnancy, Isaias was premature. He spent the first two weeks of his life in the NICU, and just over a year after that, in October 2009 Isaias went through a 3 hour surgery to amputate his legs at Shriners Hospital for Children.
That was the first time the Suarez family stayed at the Ronald McDonald House.
“Before that, we were going back in forth in one day,” Josias said, “And ever since his surgery we’ve stayed here.”
The Suarez family comes back to the Ronald McDonald House just about every 6 months now, as Isaias outgrows his prosthetics.
“We love it here. This place just makes you feel like home.” Sarahy said of the House.
“It’s home-y. You know everybody and everybody is so friendly.” Josias added. “I relax here more than anywhere else.” They have especially connected with the night manager at the House, Tasha, and her son, Dakota.
“We’ve seen her little boy grow,” Sarahy says. “I can’t believe how big he is now. We talk about what [Isaias]’s going through and she talks about what her son’s going through.”
Even Isaias gets excited to come to the Ronald McDonald House. The Suarez’s most recent visit was especially exciting because Isaias who dreams of being a member of the Carolina Panthers got approved for his blade runners—which will be adorned with Carolina Panthers’ name and colors, of course.
“Now that he is going to have his blades, we’ll see what he can do,” Sarahy says of her son.
Although, not having his blade runners has never seemed to slow Isaias down. He and his brother are active in T-Ball, boy scouts, and before it moved locations, karate. Isaias and his family also participate in his school fundraiser where students and parents run and walk as many laps as they can. This past year, Isaias was set to participate in the regional Special Olympics, but sadly it got rained out.
That won’t stop Isaias, though. He is looking forward to next year’s Special Olympics already. And until then, he is playing in his rehab center’s sports league.
“We push him to do a lot of things,” Isaias’ mom says. “He likes to be involved and definitely likes to participate. He used to say I can’t do it. Now we tell him you can’t say that, you have to keep trying. He tries everything at least once and if he can’t do it, then he’ll keep trying.”
The Suarez family has stayed strong through a tough time in their life, and the Ronald McDonald House has helped them in more ways than one.
“To be able to have his family around, and to have the simplest things—even distractions for him. it was a big help for us,” Josias says. Isaias and Jonatan David love the House’s playroom, of course, but for Isaias, his mom believes the House means more than just a fun night with an X-Box.
“He knows he’s one of the people [at the Ronald McDonald House]. He’s not different here.” Saray says.
And in many ways, Isaias is just a normal 6 year old boy. He likes video games, he loves sports, and he gets upset when he has to sit still for too long. Through many organ tests and even a chromosome test, Isaias’ doctors never diagnosed him with anything. “Mentally, internally everything is normal. It’s just physically,” his mother explains.
Sarahy and Josias Suarez know their son has been through a lot and will continue to face challenges in his life, but they are confident he can handle it.
“He’s a strong person,” Sarahy says of Isaias. “They are much stronger than what we think. They can handle it.”
Looking forward, the Suarez’s, who are expecting again, look to move closer to family in Florida where Josias is from. But, they also look to continue to strengthen their family and push Isaias and Jonatan David to go to college, start careers, and forge lives for themselves.
“My goal for Isaias is to make him as independent as I can. I don’t want him to depend on his disability as a downfall.” Sarahy says about her son.
“You fall, you get up. Because of his disability we are trying to be as strong as we can with him. He’ll learn to do things on his own. He doesn’t need anyone to help him,” Josias adds. “He’s going to be successful, and his legs won’t have anything to do it.”