Greencastle youngster Calvin McLaughlin Jr. bounces back from serious injury

PAT FRIDGEN
Calvin McLaughlin Jr. and his mom Serena Harne enjoy a moment at home before the other children wake up. Calvin will get a prosthetic leg soon and wants to play with his Smurf football team.

Calvin McLaughlin Jr. has impressed a lot of people this summer. The six-year-old lost part of his leg in an accident, but his spunk and optimism during the recovery has inspired many.

The son of Serena Harne and Calvin McLaughlin Sr., Calvin and his siblings were dropped off at his grandparents' house the morning of June 14. Pap was mowing the lawn. Serena watched the kids run into the house and went off to her job. Shortly after she settled in at her desk, the phone rang with bad news. Calvin was about to be airlifted to Hershey Medical Center.

No one is exactly sure what happened. Calvin had been behind a pine tree, and when Pap backed up the riding mower, he didn't see the little boy. Based on the injuries, Harne and the doctors think Calvin was already on the ground.

“He was wearing hunting boots,” she said. “I think he tripped getting out of the way.”

Calvin was conscious during the $27,000 flight, and worried about his Pap.

Surgeons tried to reattach his heel pad and big toe to save the foot. Infection set in. After six surgeries and no guarantees, the parents had to make a decision. They chose the prosthesis route and Calvin's left  leg was amputated below the knee. That meant only one surgery per year to fit him for the proper size.

He was hospitalized for two weeks and made an impression on the medical staff.

Nurses frequently asked his birth date. Finally, Calvin told one, “If you want my date of birth, you'll have to tell me yours.”

He was released after two weeks. “Many children come in. He's one of the few who came out of the hospital,” said Harne. “It's a true blessing he's still here.”

Adjusting

The Greencastle family is doing well because Calvin is doing so well.

“He's helping everyone else,” said his mother. “There are 60 steps in this house and he can handle them all, either by hopping or on his crutches.”

Life has taken on a new normal for Serena and her husband Randy Harne Sr., stepson Randy Jr., 13, Brett McLaughlin, 5, and Lydia Harne, eight months.

Calvin is ready for first grade with teacher Heidi Cummings. He hinted he didn't like school but Harne said it would be the best thing for him.

“He was robbed of summer.”

Calvin said his favorite things to do are hang out with Pap, swim and play video games. The hardest thing? “Climbing trees.”

Teams rally

Calvin is an athlete. He played in the Smurf league of Eagles midget football when he was five. Coach Mike Jansen has him on the roster again this year. In the spring the youngster played T-ball on the Brother's Pizza team. Coach Dave Kline remembered him as an outgoing and happy boy who liked to tell stories about his day with Pap and his family. He was also a good hitter.

The two coaches, along with Mike and Katrina Johnson, Tim Morris and Jamie Szaflarski, conducted a fundraiser with the teams' parents. They received enough donations to buy an X-box, three games and gift cards. Several went up on Calvin's fourth day of hospitalization.

“He was so ecstatic,” said Kline. “He was the normal Calvin, talking about flying in the helicopter. He wanted the X-box set up right away so he could play the hunting game. He's been a trooper through the whole thing.”

Calvin has already been at football practice on crutches. He hands off the ball and monitors certain plays.

“He's a great kid,” Jansen said. “He's handling this whole situation better than I ever could.”

The coach was amused by Calvin's updates on his condition. “He told me he was going to look at legs. I told him to get a fast one.”

The rest of the players accept Calvin as part as the team. And his goal is to play the last game of the season.

The physicians expect Calvin to have full mobility with his artificial leg. As he adapts, he should be able to run, jump, even do track and field if he chooses. Harne said he would have no restrictions.

“That kid has no quit in him,” said Jansen.