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Jacob Bird

August 9, 2021

Jacob Bird was a kid being a kid. The 17-year-old high school senior and college football hopeful thought it would be fun to jump from his home balcony onto a trampoline one-story below. But it didn’t go like he thought it would.

“I broke my leg, snapped it completely in half. The bone was sticking out, and there was blood everywhere. I didn’t know what to do,” he said.

By the end of the day on Aug. 13, 2020, Jacob was being cared for at a local hospital in Greeley, CO. There, surgeons treated the trauma to his leg, placing a metal rod to help stabilize the fractured bone. It should have been nearly the end of Jacob’s health journey, but he came down with a relentless infection. Jacob’s mom, a nurse at a Greeley hospital, went through the process of finding a new doctor, one who could heal him. But no one seemed able to stop the infection, and they were running out of options.

“The infection was bad enough to where if I didn’t do something about it, and I didn’t get admitted that very same day, I probably would have lost my leg,” Jacob said.

He was referred to Dr. Benson Pulikkottil, medical director of Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, CO.

“I could tell his leg was running on borrowed time,” said Dr. Pulikkottil. “We got him to an orthopedic surgeon here who was able to get the infection under control by replacing the rod in his leg with an antibiotic-coated one. Then, I came through on the back end and reconstructed the parts of his leg ravaged by the infection. Now, his leg is almost 100% functional and looks absolutely great.”

Though he lost a lot of tissue and faced the risk of losing his leg, Jacob says he was never really scared of that possibility, not when he had someone like Dr. Pulikkottil by his side.

“I thought about losing my leg, but I had a lot of faith in Dr. Pulikkottil. I kept thinking: This is a professional. He has done this like 5,000 times. He knows what he’s doing, and he seems super confident,” Jacob said. “His knowledge and confidence really helped reassure me that I wasn’t going to lose my leg, even though he said it was a possibility.”

Thankfully, that possibility didn’t come to fruition, and his leg is now infection free.

“For the most part, my leg is back to normal. It has some healing left to do, but I’m walking on it normally and the skin graft looks amazing,” he said.

Though he wasn’t able to take the field for his last high school season, Jacob still plans on playing football next fall at the college of his choice. But football isn’t the only thing he is looking forward to anymore. In fact, he’s already looking past his favorite sport toward his future dream job.

“Because of those surgeries and that week-and-a-half in the hospital, I was inspired to become a nurse, just like my mom,” said Jacob. “The compassion and the love they have for their jobs—I was like, ‘Wow, this is what I want to do.’”