Sisters both needed leg amputations after being born with the same rare condition – despite one-in-a-BILLION odds.

Mum-of-three Tatum Chirpich, 41, was shocked when her daughter Kennedy, nine, was born with a leg deformity.

The condition, fibular hemimelia, led to her right leg being amputated aged 16 months – but the tot quickly learnt to walk on a prosthetic limb.

Doctors told Tatum the condition was not hereditary and the chances of a second child having the same would be “like being struck by lightning twice”.

So, she and husband Jeff Chirpich, 47, a truck driver, were gobsmacked when their second daughter, Dakota, three, was born with it as well – despite one-in-1.6 billion chances.

Dakota required both legs amputated – and had the procedure in December 2022 – but she too took to walking on prosthetics with ease.

Tatum says her daughters can do everything able-bodied children can do – despite the common misconception amputation is a “worst case scenario”.

She says her girls didn’t “lose legs” but instead is grateful the amputations allowed them to “gain mobility” and improve their lives.

Rather than comparing the rarity to being “struck by lightning twice” the family say they “won the lottery twice”.

Tatum, a stay-at-home mum, from Nashville, Tennessee, US, said: “When Dakota was born with the condition, I was told I was selfish for having a second child.

“In movies, amputation is always portrayed as an ‘end of the world’ situation.

“So the misconception is that an amputee child is suffering because they’re not able-bodied – I get comments about my girls saying ‘poor baby, poor thing’.

“But my girls can do everything any other child can do – in fact they feel sorry for me because I can’t take my legs off.

“I want to try to help people see amputation doesn’t have to be worst case scenario – sometimes it’s the best.”

Tatum and Jeff’s first child together, son Casmir, 13, was born able-bodied.

Scans on their second child, Kennedy, didn’t show any abnormalities, but when she was born on September 19, 2014, her parents learned she had a rare disability.

Fibular hemimelia occurs as a result of a genetic mutation and affects just one in 40,000 people in the world.

It caused one of her legs to only grow half normal length because bones were missing, and at sixteen months old, she had part of the leg amputated and her tibia straightened so she could be fitted with a prosthetic.

Tatum said: “She was trying to walk at six months old even with her limb difference – she was hitting milestones before her brother did.

“We had to get her a special kind of prosthesis before she even had her amputation because she kept trying to walk.

“When she’d just had her amputation she kept walking on her cast – there was nothing that could stop her.”

When Tatum fell pregnant again they never expected their third child would have the same condition – as it due to a genetic mutation, rather than being hereditary.

But their second daughter Dakota, was diagnosed with the same rare condition.

The family are one of just a handful known in the world to have more than one child with the diagnosis.

Dakota’s condition is more severe as it affected both her legs as well as one arm.

At two years old, Dakota had the lower region of both her legs amputated, and her tibia bones straightened.

Tatum said: “She is also missing the ulna bone in her left forearm so it’s shorter, and she only has one finger.

“But it doesn’t stop her from doing anything – except counting to 10 on her hands.

“With both the girls, we try to keep a sense of humour about these things.”

Tatum said neither of her daughters have had issues being mistreated or bullied for their disabilities, and they both love their prosthetic limbs.

She said: “Kennedy is in third grade and all the kids are so intrigued by her leg and want to be her friend.

“She gets to change the pattern whenever she gets a new leg each year and all the kids think it’s really cool.”

The mum-of-three is trying to change the misconception that amputation is a scary or bad thing.

She said: “Any movie you’ve ever watched, amputation is portrayed in a negative light.

“A character loses their leg and can’t cope any more – like it’s an ‘end of the world’ situation.

“The term ‘losing a limb’ is so negative – I don’t say my girls lost a limb, I say they gained mobility.

“If they had kept their limbs they wouldn’t have the mobility they have.”


Interested in this story?

Contact Us