At the age of 9, Gabe Davis has walked for the first time. He was born with a rare congenital disability that left his legs underdeveloped and limited his motor skills.
Last week, he took his first steps using a new pair of prosthetic legs – and it has brought him closer to his dream of becoming a professional baseball player.
Gabe was born with a condition called proximal femoral focal deficiency. He was born without tibias and feet that were not large enough to walk on.
“His legs were completely twisted,” said Ryan Davis, Gabe’s father. “A couple of doctors said it was the worst case they had ever seen.”
But, now, after his 14th surgery in six years, Gabe is finally able to pursue his dream on the baseball field in his new hometown of Berea, Ohio.
The Davis family adopted Gabe six years ago from Ghana. When they adopted him, they were aware of his condition but did not understand how severe it was, because he had been misdiagnosed in Ghana.
“It was not until we adopted him that we very quickly realized he couldn’t do anything,” Ryan said.
At first, the Davises sought medical care for Gabe near where they lived in Ohio, but many doctors said the severity of Gabe’s disorder put it beyond the scope of their expertise. Then, last year, the family found a doctor in Florida who could perform surgery that would give Gabe greater functionality in his legs. The surgery, if successful, would let him walk for the first time.
In March and April 2016, Gabe underwent his two most serious surgeries. Gabe spent the summer in physical therapy and tried on his prosthetic legs for the first time in October.
He spent the past few months learning how to comfortably use them – and, last week, he was able to take his first steps on his own.
“It felt kind of different and interesting to use them,” Gabe said. “I was afraid I would fall. I did fall, but I got right back up.”
Gabe has never been easily deterred from pursuing his passions, his parents said. He first picked up a baseball bat three years ago, when his parents and older brothers taught him how to play. He then asked his father if he could join a “typical” baseball team.
“Gabe is perseverant. He just doesn’t quit. When he gets something in his head, he just won’t stop,” Ryan said. “We just had to figure out how to help him do this.”
After recovering from his most recent surgery, Gabe was finally ready to join a team. This spring, he joined the Berea Tigers Little League team as a pitcher and catcher.
He played sitting on the ground, without his prosthetic legs.
“I was way more nervous about him playing baseball than he was,” said Gabe’s mother, Summer Davis. “But, he did great and was one of the better kids on the team.”
While Gabe loved his first season with the Berea Tigers, he said, the highlight of his baseball career to date was getting to throw the first pitch at both a Myrtle Beach Pelicans minor league game and a Cleveland Indians major league game.
“It was really cool and really fun,” Gabe said.
Gabe aspires to go on to play in the major leagues one day – and his athletic dreams extend beyond baseball.
“My big dream is to be in the Paralympics for Ghana or the USA,” Gabe said. “But, I want to play track!”