Andie Sue and Kaysie Li are sisters who, as little girls, faced the same congenital limb deficiency that required leg amputations shortly after they were adopted from China.
Andie Sue is now a 17-year-old competitive equestrian with dreams of becoming a Paralympian. Kaysie Li is a 15-year-old devoted to training her Australian Shepherd, Rusty, as a service animal. She hopes to become a veterinarian some day.
Both girls use prosthetic legs. Their amputations were performed at Shriners Children’s Northern California, and they have received specialized care ever since, led by Orthopedic Surgeon Joel Lerman, M.D.
Form and function
“When Andie Sue first came to us, our pediatrician insisted we go to Shriners Children’s,” said the girls’ mother, Barbie. “Over the years, we’ve tried other orthotic and prosthetic specialists closer to home, but they never came close to the care at Shriners Children’s. We can’t get the same quality of care anywhere else.”
As the girls have grown, the Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services (POPS) team at Shriners Children’s Northern California has provided them with custom-fit prosthetics. POPS specialists focus on fit, function and comfort for patients and the specific activities they are interested in, like competitive horseback riding.
“I started riding when I was very young,” said Andie Sue. “I started riding bareback, because we didn’t know how to make my prosthetic leg work in the stirrup. I needed my foot to fit straight forward, not angling out, and I also needed my heel to sit lower than my toes. The heel needs to be low so it’s secure, but the toes need to be in and forward so they don’t get caught on anything.”
At 5, Andie Sue knew exactly what design she needed to support her riding. Her certified prosthetist, Eric, who is highly skilled in his profession, was up for the task.
“Designing a prosthesis around the equestrian work Andie Sue is doing requires a unique fit and function when she’s sitting in the stirrups,” said Eric. “It required some creativity, but we have to think outside of the box to support our patients and the activities they love.”
Unlike her sister, Kaysie Li is known for choosing bold designs for her prosthetics.
“I’m very creative and artistic, and I want my prosthetic to reflect that,” she said. “Over the years, Eric has messaged my mom saying, ‘I have the perfect pattern for Kaysie Li’s next prosthetic.’ That has always made me feel like I’m Eric’s only patient and that he is so focused on making sure I’m comfortable and confident about my appearance.”
The POPS team is dedicated to ensuring the girls’ prosthetics fit properly as they grow, so that they are well-equipped to continue chasing their dreams.
“They never make us feel guilty about being too hard on a leg,” said Barbie. “They always tell me, ‘It’s your job to keep them active, and it’s our job to keep up with them.’ They always want the girls to be active, out there and comfortable.”
A pet project
Kaysie Li discovered a passion for service animal work during her care journey at Shriners Children’s. Volunteers would visit her bedside with service dogs when she recovered from surgeries. Kaysie Li now trains service dogs of her own in hopes of supporting other pediatric patients some day.
“The therapy dogs have had a big impact on me,” said Kaysie Li. “I remember being in recovery, missing my own dog at home, and then a big fluffy dog would come in and lay his head on my lap. My mood would instantly change. I want to give that to other kids because it felt really good for me.”
The Shriners Children’s team will continue to keep up with Andie Sue and Kaysie Li as they grow. We look forward to hearing about their activities and adventures, and will be cheering for Andie Sue when she makes it to the Paralympic Games one day.