GERMANTOWN, Tenn. — As WREG’s Jim Jaggers and his team finished peddling their way through the Mid-South for children at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, the family of a Germantown 10-year-old reflected on how their little boy’s life was saved by doctors at Le Bonheur.
In Germantown, 10-year-old Carter Smith is just like any other kid.
His face and his eyes seem to light up when he takes a swing at a baseball or plays soccer with his little brother, Cohen. He also has a love of fishing, and he’s got the pictures to prove he’s caught a few.
The extraordinary young man, who just happens to use crutches, is a pretty amazing kid.
“I feel I can dig deep holes and play baseball and play golf,” Carter said. “I can play basketball and soccer. I really like those sports.”
Carter likes sports, and it’s hard not to like him, especially when you look back at what he’s had to endure.
About ten years ago, Carter’s parents Webb and Courtney experienced the joy and excitement of learning they were expecting their first-born child.
“We had tried for about a year to have him, and we thought we did all the right things,” Courtney said. “It was a shock, very emotional, very scared. I mean, all over the place.”
They wanted to have what they called a “fun ultrasound,” but that ultrasound would reveal something far more serious than expected: spina bifada.
The condition is where the bones of the spine and spinal cord don’t form normally.
“On that screen, unfortunately for us, it revealed a few abnormalities in the brain that were a sign of spina bifada and sign of medical things to come,” Webb said.
Both of Carter’s parents have medical backgrounds. Courtney is a mother-baby nurse, and Webb is a health science researcher at Le Bonheur.
“I think sometimes having the medical background terrifies you more because you do know what’s to come,” Courtney said.
Carter’s parents read everything they could get their hands on to research spina bifida.
They were willing to travel anywhere for their son’s care, but some medical friends told them one of the best hospitals in the world is only 30 minutes down the road: Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.
“We were looking for the best care, and that led us to Le Bonheur,” Webb said.
The Smiths would need the best for their son. He would undergo multiple surgeries involving the brain, spine and bladder.
“He had his first spine and brain surgery when he was two days old,” Courtney said. “He was taken to Le Bonheur when he was just an hour of age after I had a C section at another hospital and then transferred there.”
Le Bonheur was like a home away from home for the Smith family.
They would make countless clinical visits, including more than 20 to the emergency room, and spend more than 100 days in the hospital.
“His next brain surgery was when he was three weeks old, and then for the first five years, it was very often we were were in the ER either for something surgical that was needed or an infection,” Courtney said.
But throughout the years and after countless doctor and therapy appointments, Carter is thriving.
“Carter will be able to show a lot of people with spina bifada the way and will be a role model for us and other kids with spina bifida,” Dr. Jeffrey Sawyer said.
“We read about other kids with spina bifida, and you say here is where the ceiling is, he’s going to have trouble with these things, and next thing you know, he’s playing baseball and doing well in school. Every time we try to put an expectation on him, he steamrolls past it.”
To put it simply the Smiths say Carter is a blessing.
“Oh my gosh, the biggest blessing there is,” Courtney said. “I often say I wish I could go back and tell myself when he was first diagnosed how amazing he would be because it was hard to see that at first. But if I knew then what I know now, the fear would not be there.”
Now, Carter Smith seems to be able to do it all.
He finds the boundaries and pushes beyond them, all with the help of Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital because taking care of kids like Carter is what they do best.
“I would like to say they have helped me a lot,” Carter said.