"This thing will go pretty much anywhere I want it to," said Zeke Hembree.
Zeke Hembree is a third grader at Englewood Elementary School. Spend five minutes with him and you would never guess all he has gone through the past eight years of his life, starting off with surgery to fix a heart abnormality called a PDA when he was about 8-months-old
"This surgery is done hundreds of times each year and it's a very minor surgery without any complications," said Dr. Neil Friedman, head of the Pediatric Neurology Program at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.
But that wasn't the case with Zeke, he did have complications, that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
"The odds of anything going wrong was very low, like in the decimal percentages but it seems like each time he has the complication," said Jeff Hembree, Zeke's dad.
This was only the beginning, Zeke started suffering from strokes. Local doctors were stumped until 2013 when his pediatrician read a paper published by the Cleveland Clinic about a case similar to Zeke's. It turns out Zeke was born with an extremely rare genetic disorder called ACTA-2 gene mutation or multi-systemic smooth muscle dysfunctional syndrome. Doctors say this mutation was first discovered in 2010 and there are less than 20 cases of it around the world.
"This is a disorder when the smooth muscle in the body is affected and since it affects smooth muscle it affects very many systems throughout the body," said Dr. Friedman.
In October 2013, Zeke was having more and more strokes, leaving local doctors with no idea what do to, besides fly him to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. There, Dr. Friedman and other neurologists performed a surgery to allow improved blood flow into the brain. Their hope was to slow down and ultimately prevent the strokes.
"It was kind of scary, but I wasn't too scared because God is with me," said Zeke.
God, his family, an enormous group of supporters "Team Zeke," and of course Surgery Frog, were with him the whole journey.
"He's [Surgery Frog] been with me through the surgery at Ohio and my first heart surgery. He's been with me through 12 surgeries together," said Zeke.
Then came the recovery, which his family, doctors, and teachers say went incredibly well.
"I think Zeke's attitude is really what got him through this," said Dr. Friedman
"He hadn't missed a lick, he did not even miss, he was right back where he was. It's a miracle for what that baby has been through," said Jan Dingess, second grade teacher at Englewood Elementary School.
Zeke is like the energizer bunny, using his 4-wheel drive wheelchair to live his life to the fullest. It's a high-tech chair he got thanks to support from his friends and family.
Doctors are not sure about the future or a long term outlook because the disorder was discovered so recently, but uncertainty certainly is not holding Zeke back.
"The best therapy we found is keep him smiling, do everything we can each day and enjoy the days as we have him because you don't know what tomorrow holds," said Jeff Hembree.
By: Lauren St. Germain