CENTERVILLE When most kids come home from school, the first thing they do is take off their shoes, so it's not surprising to see a large pile of shoes in the doorway. However, at the Littlefield house in Centerville, visitors may be surprised at the sight of a prosthetic leg in the pile of footwear.
Kristine Littlefield, 8, was born with her right femur much shorter than it should be.
When Kristine was 4, she had an operation to cut off the too-small top part of her leg and replace it with the normal-sized bottom half, which was rotated 180 degrees. Denise Littlefield, Kristine's mother, said her daughter's ankle, turned around backward, became a makeshift knee joint and was inserted into a prosthetic leg.
Having an artificial limb hasn't stopped Kristine from acting like any child her age. But when she comes home from school, she takes off her leg. Her mother said she can hop around as fast without her leg as she can with it.
Kristine enjoys activities like swimming, playing outside and in the sandbox, riding her scooter, and her favorites, playing soccer and taking ballet classes at the Centerville Academy.
Kristine is an avid soccer player and has been for the past three years. She has also been doing ballet since she was 4 or 5 years old.
SalliJune Allred, Kristine's ballet teacher, says she is a positive addition to class.
"The energy and life she brings to class are contagious," she said. "Nobody looks at her differently because she's so happy."
Any trouble Kristine might have correctly executing the exact steps is swallowed up in her enthusiasm, Allred said.
"Dance, to me, is not about seeing but feeling. Kristine's heart is in her dance," she said.
Kristine said she first became interested in ballet after her mom asked if she wanted to start dancing. Her best friend, Anita Olsen, was also taking ballet. Her favorite part is "my teacher because she makes it fun," she said, with a shy smile.
While soccer and ballet both present challenges for her, she finds a way to overcome them. In her ballet class it's difficult for her to skip or hop with her right foot when dancing. Allred says she differs from many of the other girls because she never complains that she can't do something. She also never gets discouraged about anything, which most girls in beginning ballet do.
"She has such an undaunted spirit," Allred said. "She sees her leg as a challenge to overcome. She wants to do whatever anyone else her age is doing."
Running is a challenge for Kristine while playing soccer. "She's not a very good runner, but she compensates for it the best she can," her mother said.
Through it all, Denise Littlefield said she has always encouraged her daughter, always told her she can do it. She refuses to pamper Kristine or treat her any differently because of her leg.
"She's our little girl first and handicapped second," she said.Kristine agrees with her mother's sentiment. "I don't really think it's a big deal," she said.