Boy who lost arms and legs to meningitis inspires others

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POSTED: Saturday, April 14, 2012 - 6:00am

UPDATED: Saturday, April 14, 2012 - 6:04am

More than two years ago a little boy from Tea, South Dakota lost his arms and legs to a rare form of bacterial meningitis.

Austin Schoppert Coffee is now 5 years old and is discovering new ways to keep up with his friends and keep his mother on her toes.

Sporting his second pair of prosthetic legs, Austin gets a kick out of playing with friends.

He's not content with just using them to walk and soccer is a favorite.

"He just amazes all of us. He comes up with something new almost every day," exclaims Austin's mother, Heather Coffee.

Austin's found ways to adapt to all parts of life, from sports outside to games inside.

Using his chin to work the controller of a video game, Austin's out to prove that he's no different from his friends.

Heather says the family is adapting, too.

"We don't know anything different now. This is just how we do it," she said.

Many of Austin's new skills come from physical therapy sessions and preschool.

When he's ready, a third set of prosthetic legs will come his way, this time, with a new challenge.

"The next ones, they'll do knees in them, so as soon as he's ready, they'll be putting the knees in for the legs," explained Heather.

Still, the recovery process from a painful battle with meningitis continues.

Austin and his family travel to Minneapolis at least twice a year for check-ups, and as his continues to grow, more surgeries will be needed to keep the bones in his arms and legs from getting too long.

"When they're growing, it's gotta be done. Otherwise, it causes infection. The one in his arm actually poked all the way through the skin," explained Heather.

She says it's hard to plan for all the challenges Austin's future holds, but each day with him is a blessing.

Austin is entered in a national contest to win a new handicapped-accessible van.

The current vehicle is in need of expensive repairs and Heather says she's not sure what they'll do if it breaks down.

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