It was every parent’s worst nightmare. When Ward Webb was only 4 years old, he was outside playing when he came in contact with a live power line and was critically injured.
After Ward arrived at Children’s of Alabama, the trauma team worked to resuscitate him from the electrical injury. But even after he was stabilized, his survival remained uncertain. He had suffered third degree burns and would need multiple skin grafts to his head, back and legs.
“He was in an induced coma, and his doctor was afraid he was going to go into renal failure,” his mother, Marion Ward, recalls. “The days that followed were a roller coaster. One day he would be doing great, then his nurse would call to say he’d had a turn for the worse. And with anyone who’s been burned, you know ‘turn for the worse’ means infection.”
Five days after the accident, the decision was made to amputate both of Ward’s legs below the knee. Marion was devastated. “You have this perfect, healthy child and then all of the sudden that’s stripped from you completely. And it wasn’t like this just happened one day and it was gone in two weeks. It went on and on, and it’s been going on for 12 years now.”
Over those years, Ward has needed some 30 surgeries – and Marion says Children’s of Alabama and her son’s own courage have sustained her. “When Ward was so severely injured, the doctors and nurses surrounded us and gave us the information we needed. They were great, and even today his burn unit nurse, Wendy Pirkle, is a great friend of ours.”
Marion describes Ward as “the most courageous child I know.” Once he received his prostheses, nothing could hold him back. He started with recreational league football, then moved on to play for his third-grade elementary school team. He also snow skis, plays soccer and basketball and enjoys fishing and hunting.
But perhaps his greatest moment of triumph occurred in the fall of 2013, when he trotted onto the field as a middle linebacker for the Mountain Brook High School Spartans.
“When I saw Ward on TV the other night playing football, I was not surprised,” says Wendy. “I never had a doubt that he would turn out to be amazing. He has a wonderful spirit about him.”
Ward’s plastic surgeon, John Grant, MD, echoes her sentiments. “Kids like Ward are the reason we all get out of bed and come to work every day – the chance to work on challenging problems and ideally have good or excellent outcomes for our patients.”
“I look at him and in his 16 years, Ward has climbed more mountains that most of us will ever face,” says his mom. “And he’s gotten to the top of every one.”