A high school sophomore in New Jersey who is a quadruple amputee is motivating people both on and off the soccer field with his indomitable spirit.
Jorge Dyksen, 16, was stricken with an infection as an infant that prevented blood from flowing through his fingers and toes and the only way to save his life was to amputate both hands and both feet, his family recalled.
Despite becoming a quadruple amputee at just 14 months old, Jorge said he doesn't let anything hold him back. His message is simple: "Never give up."
Tim Smithhart, Jorge's principal at Manchester Regional High School, said: "Nothing stops him from anything he sets his mind to," though "he might confess to not being able to tie his shoes."
Jorge plays starting forward for the Manchester Falcons junior varsity team. With the help of Rotarian Tom Ford in Panama and Healing the Children in New Jersey, Jorge has been splitting his time between his birth country and the United States since he was a baby.
Every year he spends nine months in New Jersey with the Dyksen family, which adopted him, and three months with his biological family in Panama for the summer. Jorge has made the trip to America every year, going to school, getting fitted for new prosthetics and going through re-evaluations since his amputation.
"He is a tremendous example -- loves life and has a fabulous smile," said Ford, who has known Jorge since he was a boy.
Adoptive parents John and Faye Dyksen have been a volunteer host family for Healing the Children and have previously hosted two girls from the Dominican Republic. They said they were faced with a tough decision when they first learned of Jorge. A child who is a quadruple amputee was unlike anything they had dealt with.
"We were all pretty nervous about it," Faye Dyksen said.
"When we went to the airport ... all the fears just went away." she said. "It was kind of like love at first sight."
Jorge was just 16 months old at the time and having five kids of their own, "Mama Faye," as Jorge would call her, recalled that it was "neat to see teenagers reach out to the little guy."
The adoption process took three years. And in September 2012, just months before his sixteenth birthday, Jorge legally changed his last name from Grajales to Dyksen. "He's always been a part of the family," Faye Dyksen said, noting his biological family in Panama made a "sacrifice of love."
Though it's hard to say goodbye to his family in Panama at the end of every summer, Jorge keeps in contact with them by phone every two weeks. "I'm just happy that my parents down in Panama decided that I should get adopted here, and it was a great choice that my mom and dad here would go through it. I'm just happy," Jorge said.
Jorge was the youngest of three children and his birth parents couldn't provide for his special needs. It costs about $27,000 for a pair of prosthetic legs. The Dyksens, along with fellow church member, organized fundraisers to raise the funds that would provide Jorge with the ability to walk on his own. Jorge was badly injured in a game of soccer when his legs were tangled with another player in seventh grade, and "he does not like being in a wheelchair," Faye Dyksen said.
Jorge said he doesn't consider himself to be disabled. "I just feel like a normal person because everyone treats me like it. I just keep going on and doing what I want to do," Jorge said.