Westborough, Mass., teen Kevin Egan has come a long way since his parents first brought him to Children's Hospital Boston as a baby. Back then, they sought an orthopedic surgeon to restore function to his hand, which failed to develop properly in utero. His thumb and forefinger were heavily webbed, with a cleft in the place of his middle finger. His ring and pinky fingers also were webbed.
Kevin underwent three surgeries performed by Children's orthopedic surgeon Peter Waters, MD, when he was 1 and 5 years of age. Today, Kevin, who is a self-taught lefty, according to his dad, pitches no-hitters, performs daredevil moves on the slopes and makes music with the wind and jazz bands.
An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury caused by a skiing accident in March 2005 brought Kevin and his family back to Children's last year, bringing to the surface long-forgotten memories of anxiety and gratitude. With their return visit, Kevin underwent a fourth surgery at the hospital to repair the ligament connecting his knee and thigh bones. The surgical pre-op and hospital corridors reminded Kevin's parents of the successful surgeries that left their son with greatly improved hand mobility and little cause for self consciousness.
While the anomaly played an important role in Kevin's kindergarten celebrity—classmates sought his autograph after he shared his story, including a PBS video about his surgery, in "Show and Tell"—today, it is commonly overlooked. Since then, few teachers or peers notice that Kevin has only four fingers. Certainly, his accomplishment on the baseball diamond and the basketball court show no sign of disability—hand or ACL. In fact, he pitched a no-hitter, with 15 strike-outs in his last game of the season this year (less than one year after surgery to repair his ACL).
Now 15 and six-feet tall, Kevin leaves middle school as an honors student and enters Westborough High School in the fall. The pinky and ring fingers on his right hand are nearly the same length as those on his left, and his thumb and forefinger are a bit shorter.
But the only handicap it has caused is Kevin's choice to play the trombone over the saxophone, he says. "You need 10 fingers to play the saxophone." No worries, though. As a trombone player in his middle school jazz and wind bands, Kevin has helped his bandmates win state recognition. He's been accepted into the high school jazz band and hopes to play on the high school baseball team.
"I haven't really felt like I have a disability," he says. "But it's nice to know that I can accomplish these things even with my hand