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Monday, January 02, 2006

Byline: Katie Menzer

BRECKENRIDGE, Texas _ Some might call Jordan Brown, a toddler who nearly tore his foot off in a freak accident last year, a medical miracle. But his mother, who must struggle futilely to stop Jordan from leaping Superman-style off the family couch, has another name for him: rascal.

"If you jump off the furniture, you're going into a time-out in your room," Amanda Brown said as her son stood atop the sofa, poised to jump. "You're gonna crack your head open."

The threat held little weight. Brown couldn't help but smile as she watched her 4-year-old rambunctiously play in the living room of their home in Breckenridge, Texas, about 60 miles northeast of Abilene.

She can still remember the moment 18 months ago when she thought Jordan might never stand again.

Brown had just piled her two sons into a van on March 24, 2004, to run errands downtown with her mother. She didn't realize the kids were playing with a dog leash and one end had become wrapped around Jordan's left ankle. The other end had been closed in the van door and was dangling outside.

When she and her mom heard a crunch seconds after starting up the car, they thought maybe they had run over the family dog. That's when they turned to look at the boys in the back seat and saw Jordan's mangled leg.

The leash had snagged on one of the van's tires, pulling it tight and ripping through Jordan's ankle.

The flesh, joint and arteries had been sliced, and the foot was hanging loosely by a tendon at the back. Blood flow to the foot had been severed.

"He didn't cry or nothing," Brown said. "He just said, `I got a boo-boo.'"

Brown said she leapt out of the van and pulled Jordan, who was almost 3, into her arms. Mother and son went into shock, but Jordan's grandmother corralled everyone back into the van and sped to the local hospital. A helicopter flew Jordan to Children's Medical Center Dallas while Brown followed behind by car.

By the time Jordan's mother reached Children's _ she had never driven to Dallas before, and the three-hour trip east took the panicked mother close to five hours _ it was well after dark and her son was in surgery.

Most hospitals wouldn't have tried to reattach the foot _ opting instead to complete the amputation and fit him for a prosthesis _ but Jordan was fortunate to be at the only hospital in the Southwest with a staff dedicated to handle such trauma injuries on demand.

Children's does about 40 replants a year, although most are for fingers. Jordan's complex foot reattachment surgery is the first anyone can remember at the facility.

The surgery took four to five hours. A team of surgeons placed a pin though the bottom of his foot into his bones to stabilize the ankle, then reattached his veins, arteries, tendons and ligaments before stitching the skin over his ankle together.

Although the surgeons told Brown there was only a 20 percent chance Jordan's foot would be functional, they were hopeful he would fare better.

Within days, Jordan was feeling well enough to demand his mother pull him around the hospital in a red wagon. Five days later, Jordan had healed enough to go home.

"There was never a hiccup, never a gurgle," said Jim Thornton, a plastic surgeon at Children's and an assistant professor UT Southwestern Medical Center. "No complications whatsoever. It went by the book."

The doctors removed the pin in about six weeks, but Jordan would not take more than a couple steps. He preferred instead to scoot around the floor on his bottom, propelling himself by his hands and one foot.

For four months, Brown said she worried Jordan would not walk again.

"Then, one day, he just got up and ran outside," said Brown. "He hasn't slowed down since."

That's typical of childhood traumatic injuries, said Phil Wilson, Jordan's orthopedic surgeon at Children's and an assistant professor UT Southwestern.

"Kids don't get chronic pain issues," he said. "One day they just figure to take off and it will all be OK."

Jordan's ankle will always be a little swollen, and it aches when it rains, but the scar that encircles his leg is beginning to fade as he grows.

He runs, jumps and tries _ on occasion _ to fly off furniture, and his mother calls him her "little monkey." He spends most of his time playing outside. He wants to be a fireman when he grows up.

"He shouldn't be limited in any way," Wilson said.

Jordan will start preschool this week. He tends to be shy around strangers, but when prodded, he'll tell you a dog bit off his foot and doctors had to sew it back on.

His mother is still in awe.

"It's just amazing what they can do nowadays," she said.

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PHOTO (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): footreattached

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