Loss of legs isn't enough to keep boy from racing

Jake Frank continues to improve on his accomplishements each year. The loss of Jake's legs has not limited him.

A young boy from Hazen is going above and beyond by accomplishing things that most people wouldn't consider, and all with prosthetic legs.

Ten-year-old Jake Frank, son of Steve and Julie, lost his legs shortly after he was born because of a condition called tibial hemelia. This is a syndrome in which the person affected is born without their large shin bones.

The Tribune has reported on Jake's challenges and successes in the past. And he hasn't slowed down since he started competing at 3.

When Jake was 9 months old, he had both of his legs amputated above the knee. He now has three pairs of prosthetic legs. One is a regular pair called "stubbies," which are decorated in camouflage. Another pair he calls his "running legs" that have stickers on them, and the other has computer knees and a "Pirates of the Caribbean" theme. Since receiving his running legs, Jake has worn them most often.

When Jake was 2, the family started working with Peter Davidson at the Great Plains Rehabilitation Services in Bismarck. Davidson worked with the Challenged Athletes Foundation to help Jake get the more efficient running legs so he could do the things he loved.

"It was that quality that made the difference for him," his mother said.

At the time, Jake was 5 and the youngest person to have the high-tech running legs. His prosthetics fit him like a shoe would fit someone's foot. The socket needs to be re-sized once a year, but the prosthetic foot stays the same.

On the prosthetics with the computer knees, everything is adult sized and will fit him until he wears them out. Being an active child, this probably won't take long.

For the past seven years the Franks have competed in a triathlon in California sponsored by the Challenged Athletes Foundation. Participants can either swim, bike or run. Jake and his father have always done it together, but last year they split up and Jake decided to do the swim alone.

With all of the different things Jake does, he has made many friends and he continues to compete partly because of this. "I like to see all the people I've met," Jake said. "And I like to meet new people."

Today the Franks will be going to Orlando, Fla., to participate in a 5K walk/run. Jake, his parents and his sister Madison will all take part.
When asked about running with his family, Jake said, "it's good to have them cheering me on." 

The 5K has no winners, everyone does it simply for fun. "It's not about getting first, it's just about being there and doing it," Steve Frank said.

Jake agrees. "I think just going to Florida is really cool."

Jake and his father train together at least five times a week for the 5K. Even at such a young age, Jake has continued to improve on his accomplishments each year.

For the past seven years, the Franks have participated in different events.

"He's a trouper that way," Steve Frank said. "He isn't afraid to do different things." Being born with something as serious as tibial hemelia is obviously a challenge and something difficult to overcome, but Julie Frank says Jake's syndrome has "altered him in his maturity, his insight and his wisdom."

Jake always has been very accepting of his condition. "He has a very positive attitude," his father said. "He has never said, 'why me?'"

His mother agrees. "I can't come up with a time where he has complained or been unhappy because of the situation."

After getting to know Jake, people forget he has prosthetics. "His challenge doesn't define him," Julie Frank said. "And yet it's a very big part of who he is." Jake has accomplished many things at age 10 that most people wouldn't in their whole lifetime. "Only he can put limits on himself," his father said. "As long as he chooses what he can and can't do, the sky is the limit."

The loss of Jake's legs hasn't limited him.

"I think the most important thing that we hope for him is that he knows that whatever area he chooses, whether it's sports or academics or music, that the door is open for him," his mother said.

"I like to swim, wrestle and bike," Jake said. With this attitude, Jake will continue to participate in different events with his family and do the things he loves. 

by Macy Egeland, The Bismarck Tribune