BROADVIEW — The only equipment that 13-year-old Jacob Granger expected to need this year was a helmet, shoulder pads and a pair of cleats.
He wanted to be a defensive lineman for the Broadview Pirates.
The vision that Jacob had for his seventh-grade year would not materialize. By August, the only equipment he would rely on was his grandpa's walker.
“I used to work a lot on my grandpa's farm doing regular child stuff,” Jacob said. “I never thought this would happen to me.”
With the 2010-11 school year barely under way, Jacob was diagnosed with a staph infection in his right hip.
A staph infection is caused by a staphylococcus, or “staph” bacteria. Staph infections range from a simple boil to antibiotic-resistant infections to flesh-eating infections. Illness can range from mild, requiring no treatment, to severe and potentially fatal.
Once diagnosed, Jacob could only see the Pirates' gridiron from the rearview mirror.
“That upset me a lot because I was really looking forward to playing this year,” Jacob said. “I will probably never play football in high school or anything.”
The cause of Jacob's infection remains a topic of speculation.
As he tells it, he woke one morning with a sore leg. He suspected it was nothing more than a torn muscle, but the pain only worsened as days morphed into weeks.
“It came to the point where I really couldn't walk at all,” Jacob said. “It was confusing. I had no clue what was wrong.”
His father, Sam, faults himself for the degree to which the infection progressed and continues to progress. He theorizes that he should have done something sooner to get medical attention for his only son.
“It scared me,” said Sam Granger, a 37-year-old single father of two teenagers. “He showed no signs of a fever. He was just complaining of his knee hurting. When I was his age, it was growing pains, and we dealt with it, so I feel a lot of guilt.”
In an effort to drain the infection from Jacob's hip, the teenager underwent surgery and spent two weeks in the hospital. After he was home, an additional six weeks of intravenous antibiotic treatment was administered. He also took a course of oral antibiotics.
He has since traded his grandfather's walker for another piece of equipment — a pair of crutches, still not his coveted pair of cleats.
He will rely on the crutches indefinitely and, depending on results of further medical tests, could be trading for yet another piece of hardware: a prosthetic hip.
“I can sort of walk, but not really,” he said. “My doctor wants me to stay on them just in case my bone falls apart while I'm trying to walk.”
Father and son have an appointment at Shriners Hospitals for Children in Spokane, Wash., on Dec. 6 for an evaluation. Shriners is a 30-bed pediatric hospital and research and teaching center that provides medical, surgical and rehabilitative care to children with orthopedic conditions.
“I'm optimistic,” Sam said.
Jacob has abandoned his dream of ever scoring a winning touchdown or attending college on a football scholarship.
“Right now I'm sorta happy,” Jacob said. “I'm normal like I used to be because I know I'll get through this no matter what. I know I'll be able to walk again. A couple weeks after I got out of the hospital, I was sort of afraid I would not be able to walk again.”
He's also “sorta happy” because, in this community of 190 people, he knows he has teammates both on and off the field.
One of them is Tamera Hammond, 16, a junior at Broadview High School. Inspired by the YouTube video, “Pay It Forward — The Power of Three,” Hammond has initiated a fundraising effort to help defray the family's medical expenses. They have no medical insurance.
The expression “pay it forward” is used to describe the concept of asking that a good turn be repaid by having it done to others instead. The message of the video is to do “something big” to “change the world.”
Hammond has started the Jacob Granger Medical Fund at US Bank and has distributed 15 donation jars in Broadview, Billings and Lavina. Her goal is to raise at least $1,000 by Christmas. To date, she has collected about $120 with a promise of another $100 from the Broadview 4-H Club.
“I do think I can change the world,” Hammond said emphatically. “Not only am I helping somebody, but I'm making people aware of staph infection and what it can do to people.”
Contact Cindy Uken at firstname.lastname@example.org or 657-1287.