Sunday, January 31, 2010

Texas boy with spina bifida shows his lamb in livestock show

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

FORT WORTH — Dressed for the cold in a hooded red sweatshirt, Case Graham (pictured) sat in a wheelchair in a corner of the show ring, holding a tight rein on Bob.

"Dad, how much does Bob weigh?" Case asked.

Bob is the boy’s lamb.

"He’s 114 pounds," Keith Graham said.

"Is that good?"

The father smiled.

"Perfect," he said.

Keith and Tracy Graham’s oldest child was born with spina bifida, the most common severe birth defect in the United States, affecting about 1,500 babies each year.

Case, 12, a sixth-grader, learned to walk, using forearm crutches, before age 5.

"He’s a go-getter," his mom said.

"A trouper," his dad said.

Since September, when Keith Graham bought a lamb for each of his two sons to raise, Case and his 8-year-old brother have dutifully fed, watered and cared for the lambs.

Both boys, from Anson, near Abilene, looked forward to coming to the Fort Worth Stock Show and leading their animals around the ring at today’s junior lamb show.

But Case had another setback in November.

He needed surgery to relieve a pressure-point wound on his backside.

In late December, after the stitches failed to hold, he returned to a Dallas hospital. Case, who has undergone more than 20 major operations, spent Christmas recuperating, lying on his side.

Case was determined to continue his 4-H project.

Day after day, he walked the haltered animal from a golf cart.

Two weeks ago, Case weakly made his way on crutches to the barn to feed Bob.

His father had to carry him back to the house.

Keith Graham said his son still very much wants to show his lamb.

"He understands" he can’t, Keith Graham said, "but he doesn’t want to accept it. And that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with that."

For Case, experiencing the Stock Show is still fun, an adventure.

At 7:30 a.m. Friday, he happily explored the huge Sheep Barn. His eyes took in the rows of pens, the sacks of feed and pine shavings, the faces of other exhibitors as they exercised their lambs and placed them on scales for weighing.

The excitement filled him with questions.

How much does Bob weigh? Where’s the show ring? What time is the show?

His brother had a question, too.

"Dad, can I have a corny dog?"

"No, not for breakfast," Keith Graham told Cooper, who this morning will parade two white lambs in front of the judges — his own entry, Tiger, and his big brother’s.

He doesn’t want to accept it. And that’s OK."

Keith Graham, referring to Case’s desire to show his lamb