Perpetual Motion Machine
Sudan Clemens’ formidable level of constructive energy was first called to CPO Rich Bash’s attention by Sudan’s therapist when he was just two years old. Today, Bash laughs as he admits that “She did not exaggerate!”
The congenital deformity that left Sudan with a shorter right leg (a condition known as proximal femoral focal deficit) has never slowed him down; instead, it has fueled his high-powered drive to attempt everything—and excel at most of it! It’s an attitude that his two sisters and adoptive family simply take for granted as “typically Sudan!”
Kim Clemens, who began fostering Sudan when he was 15 months old, and adopted him when he was five, explains that his deficit takes the form of a shorter-than-normal femur that required early care. Although his first prosthetic was made elsewhere, Sudan was only two years old when his therapist at Good Shepherd Physical Therapy in Souderton, PA, introduced him and Kim to Lawall’s Rich Bash when the toddler needed a supportive brace to help him learn to stand.
Bash designed an ankle-foot orthosis (AFO) to stabilize Sudan’s sound leg and ankle, and in the process sparked a powerful immediate friendship that has strengthened through the years—and through a sequence of hip-reconstructive surgeries and additional supportive devices, including hip braces and protective immobilizing devices.
Sudan’s dynamic personality has compelled him to tackle any and all physical challenges with confident enthusiasm, and it also powers his strong bond with Bash. Kim reveals that they followed Rich to each of Lawall’s offices, whether it was Willow Grove, Yardley or Langhorne, wherever Rich was seeing patients they would go, “because Sudan adores him!
“When you find a good prosthetist, you want to stick with him; and Sudan has a special connection with Rich,” she adds.
The fondness is mutual:
“Sudan is a really great kid—high energy, goes 100 miles an hour!” Bash laughs. “Ever since he was a little kid, every time he’d come to see me he’d run in and give me a hug; now that he’s getting a little older (age 11) and cooler, he gives me a hand bump. He’s just a lot of fun to work with.”
When he was nine years old, Sudan underwent a surgical rotationplasty performed in Baltimore by Dr. Shawn Standard. The complex procedure rotated his foot 180 degrees, repositioning it to allow the ankle to function as a knee joint in his prosthetic.
“He’s had two prosthetics since then,” Kim explains. “Generally, they need to be replaced every year, since kids grow so fast. We see Rich often for fitting adjustments to lengthen the prosthetic, but it can only adjust so far before a new one is needed.”
When Sudan was recently diagnosed with idiopathic juvenile scoliosis, Bash also fit him with an appropriate back brace that has successfully reduced his back curve to almost zero in the brace.
Has the back brace slowed Sudan down? “Not so you’d notice!” Bash observes with a smile. “It took him a couple of days to adjust his balance and his posture, but Kim and the doctor agree that he’s doing great.
“Sudan does everything—he just GOES. Even when he didn’t have a prosthetic, he was non-stop! The only time he was slowed down was when he was restricted after certain surgeries.
In fact, the last time I fitted him with his new prosthetic, I cautioned him to take it easy with this new, different design. We were in their living room, and Kim and I looked out the window a few minutes later, and there he was—zipping down the driveway on his scooter!
“‘Taking it slow’ is just not in his playbook!” he laughs.
Portrait of a Moving Target
Photos of Sudan show a fun-loving kid who finds joy in everything he tries—and he tries everything!
From the bold, bright, excited designs he chooses for each of his prosthetics (graphics range from Ninja Turtles to Marvel superheroes, Pokemon, and vivid yellow-orange camo)—to his successes in everything from sports to music to fishing—Sudan’s endless energy is evident.
“From the time I first met Sudan—when he was two years old,” Bash recalls “—his therapist said, ‘Wait till you see this kid! His deficit does not slow him down a bit!’ Even at that young age, he was full throttle!”
That created a challenge for Bash: “He used to break everything, no matter what we made!” Bash marvels. “The challenge was to beef it up enough that he wouldn’t break it—yet not make it so heavy and bulky that he couldn’t actually move, since he’s a little guy. He’s doing real well!”
Kim describes Sudan as an outdoor kid who loves summer camp, fishing and boating, and enjoys everything, including Nerf ball fights with his sisters—one of whom participates more or less in self-defense!
“He was in a basketball league last year, and will be on the team his second year when the season begins; he was in Little League this past summer, and he also plays percussion in the band—drums, cymbals, and xylophone,” she enumerates. “And he’s been invited to audition for the honors band in the spring.”
He also loves playing active competitive games like gaga ball, where his agility helps him excel.
“Nothing keeps the boy down!” Kim exclaims, with a mother’s pride. “Sudan’s philosophy is ‘Never think you can’t do something!’ He likes to live the most normal life possible, from participation at school to home life (and what could be more normal than the usual spats and interaction with his sisters?). He wants to do and try anything he can to be normal.
“Every day is a new adventure,” she concludes with a smile.
Too Soon To Grow Up?
At age 11, Sudan is not in any rush to choose a career; Kim reports that his choices change from day to day. One day he wants to be a landscaper like his dad, then tomorrow he might want to be a policeman. Since he recently caught his limit of three trout, and is eagerly anticipating a day of Florida deep-sea fishing with Dad, maybe a future in professional fishing is worth considering?
There’s still plenty of time for him to decide, but it’s a safe bet that Sudan is equipped with the ability to be almost anything he wants to be!
Kim continues to prize the relationship Sudan has with his prosthetist. “Some personalities are just different; but there was that special connection between Rich and Sudan from the first. They just clicked, and that’s what Sudan needed, for sure. Rich has always done right by us—I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Bash, in turn, looks forward to his visits with Sudan, and calls him “a fantastic kid—always pleasant, determined to succeed; lets nothing get in his way whatsoever!”
To parents of children facing similar challenges:
Social media can be a valuable aid for parents, Kim has found. “There’s a Facebook page for kids with Sudan’s condition—that has been helpful. That’s how we found Dr. Standard; and it’s helped us realize there’s more than one way to do things and address problems.
“Don’t give up!” she encourages. “Don’t be afraid to seek second opinions. Lawall was not our first choice,” she reminds other parents. “We had to find them!
“Don’t be afraid to be an advocate. And trust yourself—YOU know what’s best for your kid!”
Sudan’s sunny attitude and healthy progress would seem to prove her right!