Disabled Teen Changes Minds and Lives

Parents Faced Difficult Decision

He was the third generation of his family to bear the name Doug Forbis. His father, Doug Forbis Jr., said, "I named him right there in the hallway outside of the intensive care unit. But I told my father … 'I'm not naming him after you, Dad, I'm naming him after me.' "

Doug has an older sister who was born without complications, so his parents didn't know what to expect until he was examined at the Shriner's Children's Hospital in Greenville. That's when they received an accurate diagnosis.

One of the first decisions his parents had to make was also one of the hardest.

When a doctor recommended the amputation of Doug's legs, Alisa said, "It took me until he was almost 2 to say, 'OK, we'll do it.' "

One reason the amputation was made high on his torso was to allow for the possibility of adding a prosthetic device with which Doug could stand or even walk.

But Doug rejected the idea.

"I used to always just think, OK, I don't have legs," he said. "Big deal."

He also has friends with the same disability whose parents did not choose amputations. "They're always complaining about how their legs get in the way," he said. "I will honestly thank my mom for making that decision for me, because I think if I was 17 and trying to decide, I wouldn't be able to. But now I have a higher quality of life because my parents made that decision for me. I can just walk on my arms and get anywhere I need to."

Since kindergarten, he has gone to public schools, and his mother says there's not much the schools have had to do to accommodate him. "He's never really needed much. He's just kind of there and does his thing like anybody else."

"He was always a happy little kid," said his father. "He was always doing things that were funny, trying to get a laugh out of someone, even before he could talk."

That lifelong sense of humor is one of the qualities that has also helped Doug learn to move forward, including getting through some unpleasant periods in middle school.

"Whenever I got teased, I just came back with one of my own," Doug said. "There was this one kid who would mess with me. I told him, 'My arm span is taller than you are.' And he was like, 'What? … Come on, let's measure.' So I put my arm down. He only came up to my elbow. And I was like, 'See, I told you, get out of here.' "

He became a popular figure in high school. He's funny, knows music backward and forward, and has his own style of dancing, which he says he developed through sports. "I've always just hopped out of my chair and just done stupid stuff. I would always spin around on my hands and start break-dancing.

"The dumbest thing I ever did was, I put my chair on its side, I sat on the wheel, I got people around me to spin me … I fell off and ended up with a big gash on my head."

Athletics Give Him Focus

But with all the ways he has learned to adapt, Doug says the turning point in his life was when he became involved in competitive athletics. He says it gave him focus. It also gave him an idea of what he'd like to do in the future, as a coach. He plays basketball on a team for wheelchair athletes recruited from his South Carolina region.

"He's not our best player," said Kiley, "but he's like the nucleus of this team, you know. He's the glue. Track is his actual star-performing sport … and when he's in that racing chair, he is poetry in motion."

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