Sanibel School 4th grader Sam Arensman put the finishing touches on a Hollywood storyline with a series of swings of the baseball bat on May 16 to become the Home Run Derby champion.
Sam, who underwent major surgery in January 2009 to lengthen his right leg by two inches, showed how far he has come by winning the highly prized derby competition over a talented field of Sanibel Little Leaguers.
“What a way to come back — we’re very proud of Sam, his positive attitude and perseverance,” said his father, Andre, a realtor with Royal Shell Preferred Properties.
It’s a story of community as well as young Sam’s mettle and cheerful outlook, from classmates at school to the doctors who managed his care. Sanibel Islanders could not have been more helpful in getting him through the harrowing experience.
In 2008, during a visit to Cape Cod, his childhood doctors recommended the family go forward with a complicated surgery to add 42 millimeters to his right leg. Sam had grown up with his left leg slightly longer than his right, but had always gotten along very well. However, they knew he would almost certainly have a medical procedure at some point.
Many urged the Arensmans to do the surgery with specialists in Massachusetts, but after meeting with Sanibel doctors Brett Shannon and John Churchill, who live on the island and are partners at Pediatric Orthopedics of Southwest Florida (pedsortho.net), they decided to stay here.
“I was extremely impressed with Dr. Shannon and Dr. Churchill,” said Andre.
“They blew us away with their knowledge and expertise. They went through all the data and statistics and gave us so much of their time. We felt totally safe with them.”
The surgery, a success, involved the insertion of pins and rods along Sam’s right leg. Forthe next 42 days he had to rotate a screw in his leg .25 millimeters, four times per day. Each morning he arrived at class in a wheelchair.
His friends in Renae Atkinson’s class rallied to his side, and each day one of them was selected to assist him with general activities.
“They couldn’t have been nicer,” said Andre Arensman. “They were fighting to see who could wheel him around!”
At home his mom, sister Daisy and brother Ben were a tremendous support.
Missing the baseball season in 2009 was hard, but Sam came roaring back in the fall to play flag football and goalie for the soccer team. This spring his Little League team, the Chicago Cubs, voted him Best Infield Glove, the prelude to becoming the Home Run King.
“Sam’s a great kid, very laid-back, a real island type of guy,” said his dad And ready for more sports.
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