A tumor on his spine, two surgeries lasting eight hours each, countless hours of rehabilitation and weeks spent on a wheelchair.
Parkland resident Jacob Brafman, 10, has been through a lot, but he’s a survivor.
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“I hope I will be able to meet David Wright [because] he is one of my favorite players,” said Jacob, who plays ball in Parkland. “I hope to get his autograph.”
The fifth-grader at Heron Heights Elementary is now healthy enough to start playing his favorite sport, but for many months, doctors and his parents were not sure if he’d be able to.
“People tell us that Jacob has recovered so well because Ben and I have remained strong and provided him with the perfect environment,” said his mother, Suzanne Brafman. “What they don’t know is that he is the one who sets the tone. We follow his lead. Ben and I are so positive because Jacob is positive.”
Jacob’s ordeal began in the spring of 2011.
“He had difficulty touching his toe and bending backward,” said his father, Ben Brafman. “When the doctors discovered a tumor in the base of his spine, we were in complete shock and afraid for our son. But he surprised us. There was no doubt in his mind that he would get better, even when it looked like he wouldn’t.”
Jacob was diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, a rare condition where the veins and arteries do not connect properly. Soon after, Ali Sultan, neurosurgeon at the University of Miami Hospital, conducted the first of two surgeries on Jacob. The first surgery was on April 17 and the second was on Oct. 6.
“It is an extremely rare disease; the doctors said they have never seen it on someone his age,” his father said. “They put platinum bars into the base of his spine and reattached it. The nerves are growing back now.”
For months, Jacob was totally dependent on his parents, as he was unable to move or feel his lower extremities.
“He was paralyzed and wheelchair-bound for months,” his mother said. “He fought to regain motion and feeling in his legs. Slowly, he graduated to a walker and, with the help of a physical therapist, taught himself how to walk. He can now run a bit.”
Jacob is already thinking of how it would be to be back to normal.
“I missed school, but I had a teacher come down two times a week,” he said. “I have started going back to school, and I am excited about that. I had someone to run for me when I played baseball a few weeks ago. Next year, I will be running on my own.”
Arun Sivasankaran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.