At the Y, children learn values and positive behaviors, and can explore their unique talents and interests, helping them to realize their full potential. For five-year-old Matthew Kruchten, the Y is the place where he has discovered his love of swimming. Like many boys his age, Matthew is energetic and enjoys playing a variety of sports, and keeping his mom on her toes. Watching him swim at the Y and interact with his siblings, it may take a moment to notice that Matthew has a prosthetic right leg. But, it’s clear that his prosthesis doesn’t define him or stop him from doing the things he loves the most.
In May 2013, Matthew’s mother, Trish, learned that her son would be born with fibular hemimelia and congenital femoral deficiency, which would affect the mobility of his right leg. Fibular hemimelia is a birth defect that affects one in 40,000 births and results in the partial or total absence of the fibula bone, a shortening of the tibia and a foot deformity. And, congenital femoral deficiency leads to a congenitally short femur with a lack of formation in the hip and knee joints. Treatment options for these rare congenital defects are amputation and/or limb lengthening.
Faced with an overwhelming diagnosis, Trish and her husband, Mike, began meeting with local specialists to better understand the options for Matthew’s leg. During their meetings with specialists, Trish and Mike were introduced to Alex, a brave eight-year-old boy who underwent a leg amputation when he was just seven months old. Inspired by Alex’s story and after much thought, Trish and Mike made the courageous decision to amputate Matthew’s right leg when he was ten months old. And, by his first birthday, Matthew was ‘rocking’ his first prosthetic leg, as his mom would say. From day one, he has overcome many obstacles, and all with a smile.
Recently, Matthew started taking adaptive swim lessons at the Smith Family YMCA, located at 1350 South Briggs St. in Joliet. Matthew’s mom decided to enroll him in swim lessons at the Y to help him become a confident swimmer. The Y’s adaptive swim program is perfect for Matthew because he gets one-on-one instruction from his instructors Cristal Ortiz and Kristen Breitbarth. During his lessons, Matthew is able to develop critical water safety skills, both with and without his prosthesis. In just eight short weeks, Matthew has become a talented and confident swimmer. He is able to jump into the deep end, and more recently he started swimming the full length of the lap pool. But, if you ask Matthew, he will tell you that his favorite part of his lesson is diving for rings.
“Matthew has come so far in such a short amount of time,” said Cristal Ortiz. “He is brave and hard-working, which has helped him to accomplish many swimming skills.”
For Matthew’s mom, her son’s swim experience at the Y has far surpassed everything she expected. She says that Matthew’s new-found love for swimming is a huge opportunity for their family
“Before swim lessons, Matt was so scared of the water. The Y has really created a fearless swimmer in Matt,” said Trish Kruchten.
With a little help from the Y’s aquatics team, Matthew and his family are looking forward to a summer filled with fun and plenty of swimming at their family pool and lake house. And, Trish is eager to continue Matthew’s swimming career. She is looking into local swim teams and more swim lesson opportunities at the Y.
To learn more about this amazing young Y member, be sure to check out Matthewlegstrong.com.
To learn more about swim lessons at the Y, click here or speak with a member of our aquatics team during your next visit.
Everyone has a Y story, a way in which the YMCA has impacted your life. Believe it or not, your story has the power to inspire hundreds—if not thousands—of members to follow in your footsteps. To submit a Y story of your own, click here.