ELLENWOOD, Georgia — Jahkee Johnson doesn’t need two legs to play football or to participate in the Cedar Grove High School marching band. He does just fine without them.
“He has no fear of the word ‘No’,” says Teira Johnson, Jahkee’s mother. “Failure? None of that bothers him. He's gonna try it anyway.”
The 16-year-old high school junior was born with a rare disease called Tibial Hemimelia.
According to the Paley Orthopedic and Spine Institute, the disease is so rare that it only occurs in one out of one million live births.
The result of this disease is usually when the child is born without a Tibia bone and the foot and ankle point inward.
Treatment depends on the severity of the deformity but historically, amputation is the treatment of choice.
It was a hard decision for Teira Johnson to make: amputate her child’s legs or put him through numerous surgeries.
“I just prayed about it and prayed about it,” says Johnson. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Ultimately, she decided to have Jahkee’s legs amputated when he was 9 months old.
“I think it would have put him in a lot of pain and he wouldn’t be who he is today if we didn’t make that decision,” says Johnson.
Jahkee agrees, saying he’s glad it happened when he was so young because he “wouldn’t have to think about it.”
Walking into marching band practice at Cedar Grove High School, you wouldn’t be able to point out Jahkee if you were looking for a wheelchair or any sign of a disability.
He stands on prosthetics next to his classmates pouring his heart and soul into his trombone.
“Now, I don't know how he does it, but he just does it,” says Davion Battle the Cedar Grove Marching Band Director. “He doesn't want your help. He doesn't want you to feel sorry for him. He's very self-independent.”
Jahkee’s classmates and teachers all agree he is an inspiration.
“His leadership, it transcends throughout the band,” says Battle.
Jahkee’s mother says her son’s confidence grew even stronger after attending a summer camp with the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“It’s a camp for kids with different abilities, missing limbs, things like that and I think that helped him a lot, as well.”
Jahkee is just happy to be as involved as he can.
“I'll just keep doing what I'm doing,” says Jahkee. “I can be carrying two tuba cases and it'll take me being on my back to give up.”
The teen plans to go to college and someday be a football coach. He says his inspiration is University of Alabama football coach, Nick Saban.