Prosthetic leg doesn't stand in way of Roy teenager

Jun 18 2012 - 5:43am

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ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner 
Shalee Brown, 18, talks with friends at her grandparents house recenlty in Roy. Brown was born without some of the bones in her right leg and wears a prosthesis.
Shalee Brown talks with her mother Kelly and her friends at her grandparents' house in Roy Thursday, May 31, 2012. Brown was born without some of the bones in her right leg and wears a prosthesis. (Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner)
ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner 
Shalee Brown (right) eats with her friends Keri Green (left) and Taylor Ivins at her grandparents’ house recently in Roy.  Brown, a busy and active teenager, wears a prosthesis on her right leg.
Shalee Brown eats watermelon with friends at her grandparents' house in Roy Thursday, May 31, 2012. Brown was born without some of the bones in her right leg and wears a prosthesis. (Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner)
ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner 
Shalee Brown (left) roasts hot dogs with her friend Taylor Ivins at her grandparents’ house in Roy.
ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner 
Shalee Brown, 18, talks with friends at her grandparents house recenlty in Roy. Brown was born without some of the bones in her right leg and wears a prosthesis.
Shalee Brown talks with her mother Kelly and her friends at her grandparents' house in Roy Thursday, May 31, 2012. Brown was born without some of the bones in her right leg and wears a prosthesis. (Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner)
ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner 
Shalee Brown (right) eats with her friends Keri Green (left) and Taylor Ivins at her grandparents’ house recently in Roy.  Brown, a busy and active teenager, wears a prosthesis on her right leg.
Shalee Brown eats watermelon with friends at her grandparents' house in Roy Thursday, May 31, 2012. Brown was born without some of the bones in her right leg and wears a prosthesis. (Erin Hooley/Standard-Examiner)
ERIN HOOLEY/Standard-Examiner 
Shalee Brown (left) roasts hot dogs with her friend Taylor Ivins at her grandparents’ house in Roy.

ROY -- Shalee Brown just graduated from Roy High School and has a scholarship to attend the University of Utah.

While at Roy, she was the senior class vice president, played on the volleyball team, earned her certified nursing assistant license and worked in physical therapy in an internship. She also played other sports, including soccer, in her spare time.

What sets Shalee apart from many other seniors who also lead busy teenage lives? She has had a prosthetic leg since she was 14 months old.

Shalee expects no special consideration for her condition and only wants to offer help to others in the same boat as she is. But Shalee does get special consideration in the form of admiration from all those around her.

Jeffrey Meyer, who helps students find internships in Weber School District, was awed by Shalee when he first started helping her get an internship in physical therapy.

She was very insistent about working with physical therapists, and Meyer wasn't sure why her passion was so strong, even after a few meetings with her. He asked her why, and she told him simply that she had a prosthetic leg.

"I couldn't believe what I was hearing," Meyer said. He recalled seeing pictures of her with the volleyball team and knew of all the physical activities she did. "I never would have guessed. She is simply amazing."

Shalee's friends agree. As they sat around a fire at her grandma's home in Roy recently, they all sang Shalee's praises.

"She's driving and she knows how to get things done. She never has a bad attitude about anything," said former fellow class officer Chase Grover.

Taylor Ivins is a lifelong friend of Shalee's who has always admired her willingness to be open about her prosthesis and to educate others whenever they asked questions.

"People would come up to her and ask, 'What is that?' and she would just stop what she was doing and totally tell them," Ivins said.

Kari Green remembers asking Shalee to take it off and show her when she first discovered the prosthesis in seventh-grade gym class.

"She just sat down and took it right off!" Kari said as she laughed remembering the experience. Shalee still is open about sharing what she knows and how her prosthesis works as she shows where her leg was amputated and how she still has a heel at the end of where her knee should be.

Shalee was born with a condition called fibular hemimelia -- a condition in which the fibula is missing but there is still a tibia. Shalee's mom, Kelly, knew of the condition while she was still pregnant and knew that her daughter's leg would probably never fully develop and at some point, part of it would have to be amputated. The family decided when she was 14 months old that they wouldn't let it stop her in any way and Shalee always agreed. She took dance classes, played soccer, did tumbling and found a passion for volleyball in high school.

"It gives me extra determination to do things," she said of her prosthesis. She thinks because she learned to walk with it, it has been easier for her than for some who lose a limb after using it for most of their lives.

"It's just all that I've known," she said. Her family loves telling stories about Shalee's experiences with her prosthesis.

Kelly remembers one time when Shalee was playing soccer and her prosthesis did a 360-degree turn after she kicked the ball. Everyone on the sidelines was freaking out because they thought it was her actual leg. Shalee simply stopped, screwed the leg back on and kept running because that's just what she does, her mom said.

Because Shalee is the oldest child in her family, Kelly said she has been a wonderful example for her younger siblings, because she is so determined to conquer everything well.

"They always joke that Shalee is the perfect one," Kelly said with a laugh.

Shalee still visits the doctor regularly at Shriners Hospital because as she grows she has had to get a new leg. As she has gone to the hospital over the years, it has made her realize she wants to work with children and adults who have similar conditions.

"I hate needles and blood, and I want to be able to help others to adapt and be able to cope with changes," Shalee said.

Her grandma, Pat Bronson, said Shalee's comment when she was young sums up her attitude perfectly. She was walking along and told her grandma, "My leg is just hard," she said. Her grandma thought she was complaining a little about not having two normal legs and started to talk with her about it, and Shalee turned and said, "No, not like that grandma ... my leg is hard," meaning it was literally hard to the touch.

Bronson said, "That's just how it is with her and she just goes on living."

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