May 12, 2013

Boy reaches out to provide hope to other amputees

Matthew Freitas faces his own injury – and inspires others – with maturity beyond his 12 years.

By PATRICK RONAN The Patriot Ledger

WEYMOUTH, Mass. - Considering all Matthew Freitas has been through this year, it'd be completely understandable if the 12-year-old Weymouth boy wanted special attention. In January, his lower right leg was amputated after he was in a car accident.

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Matthew Freitas, 12, of Weymouth, Mass., makes his way across the lacrosse field where his school team is playing. He is helping to coach the team until he can play again.

Greg Derr/The Patriot Ledger

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Matthew Freitas, 12, is all smiles as he watches his lacrosse team on the field. He would like to let others know that having an amputation need not destroy your dreams.

Greg Derr/The Patriot Ledger

But Matthew isn't looking for special attention; he'd rather deflect it to others. After Weymouth's 13-year-old-and-under lacrosse team, for which he played prior to his injury, notched a win over Hanover on last month, several spectators approached Matthew to talk to him.

He wanted to talk about his teammates.

"Two of our guys had hat tricks," he boasted, leaning on two crutches.

Melissa Freitas, Matthew's mother, said her son is just more comfortable lending support to others. For example, in the wake of last month's bombings at the Boston Marathon, which resulted in a number of victims needing amputations, Matthew told his mom he wanted to see if there were any children he could visit who lost limbs. He wants to let them know that it sucks but it will be OK," Melissa Freitas said.

On Jan. 4, while in Maine on a skiing and snowboarding trip with his dad and his Boy Scouts troop, Matthew was in a serious car accident that severely damaged his right leg. He had a pair of surgeries over the next two days, the first to amputate his lower right leg, and the second to close the wound.

Matthew, a sixth-grader at Abigail Adams Middle School in Weymouth, was hospitalized for two weeks after the accident. During that time, the boy struggled to accept his future as an amputee, his mother said.

"He was afraid his friends would treat him differently. He was afraid his family would treat him differently," she said. "He was afraid he wasn't going to be able to play sports. He was afraid he wasn't going to be able to drive a car, because it's his right foot."

But Melissa Freitas said her son has shown remarkable strength, choosing to return to school the same week he was released from the hospital. She said Matthew occasionally gets sad about his injury, but for the most part he is trying to be positive.

Matthew doesn't have a prosthetic leg yet, but he's already making plans to return to his favorite sports: lacrosse, snowboarding and football. In the meantime, he's helping coach his former lacrosse team.

Out in public, it's difficult for her not to get angry when she sees people staring at the bandage where her son's right lower right leg used to be, Melissa Freitas said.

"Once someone made a rude comment to him, and I started to say something," she said, "and he was like, 'Mom, stop. Be the bigger person."'

Despite feeling sad and, at times, angry about the accident, Melissa Freitas said her family - including her husband Scott and Matthew's two siblings, Danny, 13, and Amelia, 9 - are getting their strength from Matthew.

"He makes it easier on us. We would have a much harder time if he was more withdrawn and depressed," she said. "So far we've been taking his lead. He's got such a positive attitude, and it works."

Family members and friends have started the Matthew Freitas Support Fund to help pay his medical bills. On top of the medical treatment he's already received, he will need months of physical rehabilitation and doctors' appointments. Also, he'll need a new prosthetic every year until he is an adult.

Matthew, however, is focused more on bringing support to others. If any of the victims of last month's bombing are comfortable with having visitors, he'd like to meet with them and share a message of hope.

"I just felt bad, and I know what losing a limb is like," Matthew said.


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