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Kennedy’s next step

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Kennedy Janco, a seventh-grader at Waccamaw Middle School, doesn’t think it’s a big deal that she had part of her right leg amputated.

She did the research into her condition, an abnormal connection between arteries and veins called arteriovenous malformation, and told her parents, Ed and Nicole Janco that she was going to have surgery and get a prosthetic leg.

“She’s been a strong willed child since she was 3 years old,” Kennedy’s mother said. “Now we know what God was preparing her for.”

Kennedy said she got kicked during a soccer game when she was about 6 years old and veins near her ankle looked abnormal. Her pediatrician sent her to the children’s hospital in Pittsburgh. She was correctly diagnosed with the condition at the Cleveland Clinic and underwent nine procedures to block the flow of blood to the damaged arteries and veins.

Next she went to Duke University and had five more surgeries.

“I did some research on my own,” Kennedy said, “and people with vascular malformations usually get them amputated. They always say they wish they would have done it while they were young.”

She told her parents that she had decided on amputation and was looking at prosthetic legs on the Internet by Christmas Eve. “She’s the bravest girl I’ve ever met,” said Mark Swesey, a family friend.

Kennedy has a different take: “I just got tired of having surgeries.”

The leg was removed Jan. 28, and Kennedy returned to Waccamaw Middle to visit her friends Feb. 3. They had already begun a school-wide drive to raise money to help her buy a $20,000 prosthesis suitable for sports. Kennedy wants to get back on the softball field by summer. She’s a pitcher and first baseman.

She started an online account at gofundme.com for an artificial leg that’s topped $8,500, and Waccamaw Middle School presented her a check for $2,350 Wednesday. Students counted a lot of pennies, nickles and dimes, said Linda Whetstone, a seventh-grade teacher. In addition to the school drive by classmates, Massey’s Pizza raised $650 for Kennedy during a pizza sale.

Kennedy plans to return to school after spring break. She’s being home schooled by Mary Cannon, an eighth-grade teacher at Waccamaw Middle, in the meantime. “She’s quite a trouper,” Cannon said.

Kennedy is handling the situation with grace and humor. She’s named her stump “Duke” for the hospital where she had the surgery. It’s taking more time to get used to the insensitivity of strangers.

“People freak out at the mall,” she said. “A waitress asked if I’d had a boo-boo.” Kennedy said she’s tempted to tell people she was bitten by a shark but prefers to explain that she had surgery.

“It’s something I had to do,” she said. “It doesn’t really faze me. It was not really brave. My doctor said I was only living 30 percent of my potential. With the prosthesis, I can do whatever I want.”

“Kennedy’s Next Step Forward” is the name of her online account at gofundme.com.

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