AIEA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Jake Tsukada is your normal nine-year old boy, who loves to play his favorite sports. Particularly baseball and football where he plays quarterback.
As any typical young Hawaii boy...he's also a big fan of Warrior football. When asked who is favorite player is, he responded quickly, "Bryant Moniz."
What makes Jake different, is a rare bone disease called leg calve perthes or L.C.P.. It's a degenerative disease that stops the flow of blood to the hip, causing the bone to deteriorate. It's common in children 3-12 years old and affects about one in every twelve-hundred kids. While physical therapy is typically enough to help, surgery is needed on other occasions...like Jake's.
"This is a metal rod and screws that was in my hip (he says as he holds up a two-inch rod with six-inch long screws) and it just got taken out on my last surgery."
Over the last two and-a-half years...Jake has gone through countless hours of rehabilitation and three surgeries. Each one has left him in a cast that covered both legs, with a metal rod that braced the legs from moving, and ran up to his chest. Needless to say, he was an easy target for his seven year old brother Justin. "Do you ever pick on him right now since he can't move?", I asked. He responded "A little." I inquired further: "What do you do to him?" "I don't know", Justin said, "If he hurt me then I hit 'em back". (laughs)
Jake agrees, movement was limited. "I could move side to side a little bit, pushing on my right leg, cause it (the cast) went down to my left leg, to my ankle, to my left leg, and to my knee on my right leg. It went up past my belly button."
"It's tough for him mentally."said his father John, "It's been hard for us to coach him mentally that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We knew eventually he would recover but we didn't know when. If it was three years, five years, seven years, they don't know. And for a child who 2-and-a-half years ago was 7-years old...it's difficult to just sit around and do nothing".
But all that time in isolation allowed Jake to develop his passion for UH football. And when the Warriors struggled through a six-game losing streak in 2009...Jake let the Warriors know he was still a fan by writing letters to coach Greg McMackin.
"When the team was losing a lot, I wrote him letters so that he could believe his team could get better and win."
Coach Mack said the letters went a long way. "He's a great little friend of mine. He's going through tough times, and he's beaten it...and we had to do the same thing."
So on a nice clear day during a UH fall practice...the Warriors welcomed a special guest.
Coach Mack invited Jake to do something no other child has done before...lead his Warriors as they broke practice.
"It was a lot of fun...it was funny because Jake, the player, he was just staring at me the whole time. And he was like what happened to you? And I said I had surgery."
Defensive Tackle Vaughn Meatoga was in awe at Jake's strength. "We grumble about aches and pains and this kid is fighting this disease and surgery after surgery...and i really have nothing to complain about we just got body aches that will go away in a couple of days. It humbles everybody to see a kid like that, so it's really inspirational to have him come around."
Of course perhaps the moral of the day was that no matter what..."I feel like even if you're younger than them," Jake said, "you can still give them knowledge." Two weeks later Jake was out of his cast and in the stands at Aloha Stadium to watch his Warriors face USC. The Warriors didn't achieve their goal in the game losing 49-36... but Jake has set a goal of his own. At the end of September he'll find out if his body is clear of LCD. Then he plans to return to sports by January of 2011.
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