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Family back together after daughter loses leg

Recovery for 6-year-old will be a long process, say parents

By BRIANA BARKER Reporter Published: June 7, 2017 12:00 AM
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NORTHFIELD CENTER -- After 10 weeks in the hospital, losing the lower half of her left leg, and nearly her life, Tessa Puma is home with almost no limitations.

The 6-year-old was diagnosed with strep throat in March, but was later taken to the hospital in so much pain her parents say even a sheet touching her caused pain and it was discovered she had a rare infection.

Eventually, her parents Matt and Tina Puma say Tessa stopped breathing and doctors lost her pulse. Matt said nearly two dozen doctors and staff members worked to stabilize her.

Ultimately her lower half of her left leg was amputated in late March, and Tessa underwent numerous subsequent procedures during the past 10 weeks.

Tina said she is happy for some normalcy and not going back and forth to the hospital every day, as the Pumas tried to keep things as normal as possible for her brother Tyler, who just finished his fourth grade year at Northfield Elementary.

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While playing video games after her homecoming June 2, Tessa said she missed her dog Deebo, laying on her couch and dyeing Easter eggs.

Tessa was in the hospital over the Easter holiday and missed one of her favorite activities. Matt Puma said the first thing Tessa said when she got home was "Can we dye eggs now?"

Things she won't miss about the hospital, include the hospital food, and being awakened by nurses.

"No more nurses waking us up in the morning," Tessa said with a smile.

"Remember the other night they woke us up at 6 a.m.?" she said to her dad.

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Her mom, teasing her, said she could wake her up at 6 a.m.

"No!" Tessa said emphatically, and everyone smiled.

Tessa had been permitted to take day trips out of the hospital during her last couple of weeks there, and even appeared in the Nordonia Hills Memorial Day Parade.

Matt said Tessa was excited about the parade, as people were clapping and cheering for her as they went by. She also got to graduate from kindergarten with her classmates at the end of May.

During her time in the hospital, Tessa had close friends and family visit to cheer her up, but she also had special visits from Disney Princess Ariel, some superheroes and her favorite, Moana, who sang "How Far I'll go" and customized it for her. Matt said she watched the movie "Moana" many times during her stay. Tessa, who was in good spirits, giggled and said she watched it once. Her dad said she was being silly and she giggled and said "OK about 110 times."

Matt said every time Tessa was in pain, she would watch that movie and it helped her through the pain.

Though she is released from the hospital, Tessa has to undergo physical therapy five days a week.

"Right now it's all about her stretching," Matt said.

Home Improvements

Tessa is currently using a walker to get around as she awaits a prosthetic leg.

"They didn't have one small enough to fit her so they had to special order it," Matt said.

Tina said once her daughter gets the prosthesis, the sky is the limit to what Tessa can do -- she can even dance again if she wants to. Matt said representatives from Yanke Biotics, the company making her prosthetic leg, has challenged Tessa to be the first client who will do a cartwheel with her new leg.

Matt said certain improvements had to be made to the family home to make it easier for Tessa to get around, including a new, more accessible bed and bathroom, along with a new emoji-themed room.

"We have had a lot of help from people in the community who have donated time and materials," he said.

He added the family has received much support in various ways from the community during the past two and half months.

"I have been out of work for 10 weeks, without a paycheck from work," said Matt, who is a maintenance technician at American Axle. "Without the support from our community there's no way I would have been able to be at the hospital to watch over her."

"We wouldn't have been able to get through it without the help of everybody," added Tina, a stay-at home mom.

There is another community fundraiser planned to help the family June 11 from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Veterans of Foreign Wars post 6768 Auxillary on Olde 8. Ticket cost for adults is $25, children $10. Tickets include pasta dinner and grand prize entry. There will be grand prizes, booze bucket, reverse raffle, 50/50 and Chinese auction.

For tickets and donation drop off please text/call Sheila (330) 907-0427 or Denise (216) 470-2029.

Briana Barker: 330-541-9432

bbarker@recordpub.com


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