Help Essien Run Again

Our 15 year old son, Essien (pronounced A-Shawn), is an active 10th grader. He's been involved in sports since he was 4 years old. In addition to basketball, Essien loves eating, talking and texting on his phone, playing video games, drawing, running track, and riding his bike. He's an all-around typical teenager. Yet no one had any idea how his world would change so drastically in the course of one month.

Essien just finished playing his second year of basketball for his local high school. He was a rising star on his team. He decided to go out for the outdoor track team for the first time. The track coaches were impressed with Essien's performance during tryouts. After practicing hard for a week and a half, Essien competed in his first track meet"”March 22, 2014. Immediately after the track meet, Essien complained about an intense pain in his right foot. Although this pain was present during his first week of practice, it was very minor and thought to be a regular sports-related ache. His mother took him to an urgent care center where they diagnosed him with a sprained foot or tendonitis. Through the pain, Essien continued to attend school, as well as track practice"”although he was not allowed to practice. Essien went back to an urgent care center on March 29, 2014. At that visit, the physicians observed that his toes were cold and his foot was swollen. This is where the nightmare began for Essien, his family, and his friends.

On March 29, 2014, the urgent care center advised Essien's mother to rush him to the county hospital. The hospital physicians assessed his swollen foot and determined that Essien, more than likely, had compartmental syndrome (the space between his tissues was inflammed, preventing proper circulation to his foot). They immediately took Essien into surgery where they performed a fasciotomy (an incisions made to relieve pressure and increase circulation) on his right foot. The doctors made two incisions on his foot. Although the fasciotomy relieved some pressure and reduced the swelling, the sensitivity to touch, coldness, and pain in his toes did not go away. Hours after the fasciotomy, doctors at the county hospital performed a Doppler test to check the circulation in his foot. They discovered there was an arterial blockage somewhere in his leg. This blockage prevented proper circulation to Essien's foot. Due to the gravity of the discovery, the county hospital immediately rushed Essien to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore Maryland that same day.

Upon his arrival at John's Hopkins, the doctors performed an MRI on Essien. He was in agonizing pain, and his toes were ice cold. After reviewing the MRI, the doctors determined that he did, in fact, have an arterial blockage behind his knee. This is when we learned that Essien was probably born with an uncommon pathology called popliteal artery entrapment syndrome. Essien's calf muscle grew across his knee, constricting the artery in his leg"”a condition his doctors claimed they had never seen before, but only read about in books. The doctors at John's Hopkins decided to treat the arterial blockage with medication designed to "shrink" the clot in his leg. This procedure was performed the next day, March 31, 2014. The doctors performed a fasciotomy on the inside of his leg and inserted a catheter into his artery to administer one of the blood clot medications.

On April 1, 2014, the doctors informed the family that the large clot behind Essien's right knee had broken up but gathered further down his leg. Meanwhile, Essien was in excruciating pain. The family was further shocked when we learned that his hemoglobin level (blood count) dropped below five. The doctors had to give him a blood transfusion"”one of many to come. The doctors waited a few days to see how Essien's situation would unfold. Finally, the doctor gave the family the Earth-shattering news. Based on the assessment of Essien's foot in the operating room, and other tests for a proper pulse to his foot, the doctor informed the family that there was a nine out of ten chance that Essien would need a partial foot amputation or a below the knee leg amputation. There was no blood flow to the two incisions from the fasciotomy, and his foot was still cold and painful. We were all devastated. There was no way of us knowing that he was born with this condition, and now our son would have his leg amputated. The doctors made two larger incisions on both sides of Essien's calf to "fish out" the smaller clots. They wanted to give Essien's leg a chance to recover before they moved forward with the amputation.

Crushed, the family held it together. We remained optimistic, continued to pray and called everyone we knew to pray for Essien as well. We told the doctor: 1) do everything possible to save his life, and 2) whatever procedure Essien has to have, we want him to walk as normal as possible when this nightmare is over. On April 7, 2014 the doctors performed a test to determine how much damage to Essien's foot had been done. There was little blood flow to his foot for nearly two weeks. His foot was ice cold and the pain was intense. The doctor had Essien close his eyes to see if he could determine which toe the doctor touched. Essien did not pass the test. With his eyes closed, he could not feel which toes the doctors touched. The next day, on April 8, 2014, his toes turned black, and gangrene set in the smaller toes. The doctors amputated the front part of his right foot that day.

The family prayed that the worse was over. We received an enormous amount of support from family and friends. Essien was still in such terrible pain. On April 11, 2014, the family was informed that the back of Essien's foot was still not receiving adequate blood flow. The back of his foot died as well. The family accepted the fact that in order for Essien to live, he would probably have to have the remaining part of his foot amputated, or his leg amputated below the knee. The doctors spoke of saving his right leg and only amputating his foot, but Essien had too much muscle damage in his calf.  If they chose this option, some of his calf muscles would possibly have to be removed. This would leave him with a peg leg that would not be very functional. In essence, Essien would walk with an extremely noticeable limp. This option was unacceptable to the entire family. Four days later, on April 15, 2014, the doctors amputated Essien's leg below the knee. During the procedure, they removed another large arterial clot.

The doctors performed a few more surgeries after the amputation. The final procedure was a skin graft performed to cover one of the faciotomies on the side of his leg.

It has been almost one month since this ordeal began. Essien has been through countless blood transfusions, several addictive and non-addictive pain medications, and over ten surgeries. Through it all, he has been strong and upbeat. We believe he set the record for the number of visitors who came to the hospital to visit one patient. He is a little disappointed that he may not be able to return to school this year, but his spirits, none the less, are still high.

Essien goes through spells where he still feels the pain in his toes and foot, even though both have been removed (this is called Phantom Limb Syndrome). The human body is truly amazing. The doctors gave him pain medication for pain in a limb that is no longer attached to his body.

We are asking for help. The insurance company is willing to cover the majority of the hospital bills (about 80 percent) and most of the cost of a temporary and permanent prosthetic leg (about 80 percent of 20K), but our portion is considerably large. Essien was in the hospital for nearly a month. The insurance company will not cover the cost of the running prosthetic leg (called a Cheetah Leg - 7K). We need to raise funds to help Essien continue to be the typical teenager and star athlete he was destined to be. He is even talked about competing in the Paralympics. Essien needs some accommodations for the loss of his leg, and many more expenses that are adding up. Any donation will help the family relieve the stress of the costs to help Essien continue to live his life as a normal 15 year old teenager. Our goal, as of today, is to raise $500k. If you feel it in your heart to help support him on this endeavor, our family will be eternally grateful. Thank you for hearing our story and thank you in advance for your support. Please click the blue "DONATE!" button to make your gift donation to Essien and share our story with your Facebook friends and family. Please tweet this message to everyone you know. Stay Blessed!

P.S. One of Essien's favorite NBA players is Kevin Durant. If anyone has a connection to, or is in contact with, Mr. Durant, can you please ask him to reach out to our son. Thanks

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Sundiata Ture 
Ft. Washington, MD
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