From being in experimental surgery and wheelchair bound, to becoming the humorous, athletic coach and teacher, Greg Puskas has been through a wide array of injuries, and holds an intriguing story as to how he contributed to one of the first test studies towards the cure for Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. The Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is commonly found in children and occurs when the blood supply to the ball part of the hip joint is interrupted, causing the bone to die, allowing it to break easily and heal poorly.
It is now a commonly cured disease, but Puskas was one of the first at his age to participate in a test study involving this disease and be cured of it. While in the hospital, Puskas was operated on twice, once where they went in to see the damage to the hip and then the second time to shave down the hip and reshape the joint. Two years after his surgeries, he was completely cured of his disease, and much to the doctors surprise, he had no trouble walking and even running.
When he was diagnosed, Puskas had been told that there would only be a small chance of him walking without the use of a cane or some type of walking assistance, along with never having the chance to participate in any athletic opportunities. He was involved in one of the first test studies at Umitila Hospital in Orlando, where he was kept for a year and was involved in many experimental surgeries. This contributed to results that led to him being one of the youngest to ever be cured of his disease while in kindergarten. Through his stay at Umitila Hospital, Puskas not only found a way to use his legs unassisted, but also found his humor.
“There was a girl in the hospital that was older than me, her name was Jennifer, she ended up passing away a little while later; she would always come over to me after my parents left because I would cry all the time and tell me jokes. She taught me to deal with my emotions in a different way, and that’s why I tend to have a lot of fun now and make light of situations that don’t need to be worried over.”
His humor was able to get him through the lonlier stages of the process, but his family was supportive and always there by his side as well. Puskas talks about his parents and one of his four sisters traveling a total of two hours a night to visit him; along with his whole family traveling to keep him company once a week.
“Being away from your home at that age, while seeing everything happening in hospitals is not only terrifying, but very taxing. It helped me develop a sense of humor at a very young age,” said Puskas, “My humor and ability to see the light in situations was one of the things that helped me deal with being on my own when my family wasn’t able to be there. The support and love from my family got me through so much.” After a year at Umitila Hospital, Puskas was able to return home to his family, and was placed in leg braces and a wheelchair for the following year before regaining full function of his legs. When he returned to school they had to build wheelchair ramps for him to get to his classes, but the wheelchair didn’t stop him from doing things that other kids could. His mother would not allow him to use his handicap as an excuse, and even though the attempts weren’t always successful, he still would participate.
Overcoming his disease, Puskas went on to become a four-sport high school athlete and a two-sport college athlete. Puskas participated in basketball, baseball, football and ran track in high school; he also continued football and track in college. Although he overcame Legg-Calve-Perthes, this didn’t stop him from receiving a variety of further injuries and surgeries. He has had seven diagnosed concussions, two surgeries for a reconstructed knee, two broken wrists, a snapped ankle, has broken all his toes and fingers and a separated shoulder on multiple occasions. Also, during Puskas’s senior year of high school football, he broke multiple ribs and collapsed a lung.
Puskas has to go to the hospital once a year for a check up, and he is nearing the time where he will need a hip replacement. He walks freely without assistance and coaches the sports he loves. Through all of his injuries and surgeries, Puskas has truly overcome everything that has ever challenged him.
By: Madison Sieckowski / Staff Writer