Columbus teen dreams of walking without pain

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It's been almost nine years since 17-year old Tamesha Simmons could walk without pain.

But, here she is at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite, balancing, on new legs.

"I think I'm doing pretty good, because I've been walking on crutches, too," Simmons says.

Her mother Tamika Simmons says it has been quite a year.

"This has been a journey up here," Tamika Simmons says.

Tamesha is one of five sisters.

Since the beginning, the Kendrick High School rising senior has battled to stay on her feet.

"Tamesha, she was born with an abnormal leg," her mother says. "The right leg has always been quite larger."

In grade school, Tamesha developed blood flow problems in both of legs.

By third grade, she was struggling to walk on her own.

"In 4th grade, I was on crutches," Simmons says. "Fifth, I was on a walker, and then ninth, I was in a wheelchair."

Living with constant pain, and nerve damage from a leg extension surgery, last fall, Simmons made a difficult choice.

"It was my decision to amputate my legs," she says.

In February of 2019, she underwent surgery at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta to remove both of legs below the knee.

"I wanted to walk," she says.  "And, my legs were pretty much no good anyways."

Her mother says it was a hard decision for everyone.

"I was scared the entire time," Tamika Simmons says.  "But, she was so motivated and ready to do it that I couldn't let her see that I was scared. So, whatever her decision, I just backed her in whatever she wanted to do."

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta physical therapist Jill Cannoy was part of the team that helped Tamisha learn to use her new prosthetic legs, custom-designed just for her.

"Immediately post-op, she did not have a ton of strength, especially in her glutes, and you need that to stand up," Cannoy says.  "And I was thinking, Oh, my goodness. What are we going to do? How are we going to get her upright? Are we going to have to use special equipment?' But, the minute she put both prostheses on, she hopped right up. Stood!  Walked the length of the parallel bars three or four times, with a little bit of help."

There have been setbacks.

An infection in one leg slowed her recover. 

But Tamika Simmons has pushed on.

And, I think she's much happier now to be up and moving," Cannoy says.  "And, one of the first things she said was, 'Dr. Fabregas told me, 'I will help you walk. We will make sure you walk.' And, she is up and walking."

Tamesha wants to be able to walk on her own, without a walker or crutches, by her 18th birthday in October.

She has an even bigger goal for the spring.

"It is to walk across the graduation stage," she smiles.

"If she keeps going at the rate she's going now, I don't see anything stopping her from being able to walk across that stage," her mother says.  "She's moving along great."

And Tamesha Simmons says she will on pushing. 

That is just who she is, Tamika Simmons says.

"Everybody loves Tamesha," she says "So, she's still that bubbly person now, she's just more independent."