Building Strength: Seth’s Story

Story provided by Rachel Klein, YMCA of Greater OKC

Photography by Simon Hurst

Looking at 11-year-old Seth you’d never know he faced a life-changing challenge a few years ago that left him in a wheelchair. He started having leg pain and began limping. The limping quickly became more intense and resulted in a stiff leg and not being able to walk without excruciating pain. This is when his mom knew something was terribly wrong. 

After a few doctor’s visits, it was determined that Seth had Perthes disease, a condition where blood supply to the rounded head of the femur is temporarily disrupted and without that blood supply, the bone cells die. For a child whose body is growing, this can cause long-lasting issues if not addressed. 

The treatment for Perthes can be extreme, but Seth’s family decided to go the more conservative route. Seth needed to be off his feet and have his leg in the proper position to allow for the newly growing bone to form properly in the socket. He was put in leg casts with a bar between them to hold his legs in a wide “V” position. This lasted for seven, very long weeks. 

Once the casts were removed, Seth wore braces to help with movement and to continue the healing process. A big part of that was physical therapy. Though they did traditional physical therapy, it was evident that other options needed to be integrated into Seth’s routine, and that included swimming. That’s when Seth and his family came to the Y. 

“We started by swimming together and doing simple water exercises,” says Robin, Seth’s mom. “Seth got really good, so we signed him up for the Y swim league.”

Since then, Seth has mastered a variety of swim strokes and increased his speed to win friendly competitions. 

“Without the Y, Seth wouldn’t have had a place to do water therapy at an affordable price,” Robin says. “We’ve all been able to enjoy our Y membership. While Seth is swimming, we can exercise to work on our health too.” 

From the wheelchair to the walker, to swimming, to running and jumping, Seth is a thriving young man and the Y had a part in helping him get there. 

Seth and his mom, Robin, stand in front of the YMCA located at 204 S. Duck Street in Stillwater, Oklahoma.