A walking miracle: Rucker walks against all odds


Dr. Patrick Wright was left scratching his head and had tears in his eyes when Ja’Dan Rucker arrived at his appointment.

The seven-year-old who was told he would always be confined to a wheelchair was walking towards them. Shaky but strong steps, supported by braces and a walker were being made by the disabled young boy who is defying his diagnosis.

“I wish I could find everyone who told me this is a boy who would never walk,” said his mother Nicole Rucker. “They told us there was no hope for him. You can’t tell me God didn’t have a hand in this. My boy is walking.”

Ja’Dan was born with myelomeningocele, which is the most serious form of spina bifida, and hydrocephalus, which is the buildup of too much cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. When Nicole was early in her pregnancy, she was told Ja’Dan would also have a club foot and could possibly have Downs Syndrome.

Shortly after his birth, Nicole was heartbroken to discover he would be confined to a wheelchair. But she was not going to give up on her son.

Ja’Dan has endured over 10 surgeries in his young life and has visited more physicians and undergone more tests than many have in a whole lifetime. Yet, he has remained positive through his journey. And although he has been confined to a wheelchair, his dreams continued to grow and his spirit remained high.

Until last Friday when Ja’Dan walked for the first time. Now he says he can do anything. Dreams are becoming realities.

“It was the first time he had ever walked that day at home,” Nicole said. “Today is his first day on carpet. He likes to overwork himself, but I am trying to teach him that sometimes that is OK. He is determined to keep walking.”

Although he is paralyzed from the waist down, Ja’Dan said he is beginning to feel things. He is teaching himself how to use his thigh muscles, which allows him to pick his foot up. While walking, he always looks at his feet to make sure nothing is wrong. It is as if he wants to walk just perfect.

Ja’Dan has been evaluated since last March for the possibility of attaining braces. It was a challenge, but he was determined to keep trying to walk like everyone else around him until his evaluation was complete.

“At home, he started walking on his hands, pulling them,” Nicole said. “He would move to the table, but he was unable to stand.”

Without braces, Ja’Dan would have no posture, which would lead to him leaning forward with no control. Thanks to the approval of a specialized brace, he is now able to stand with support and move his legs on his own.

Still, there were doubts that walking would be accomplished. But Ja’Dan erased those doubts with his first step.

Ja’Dan went to his first doctor appointment last Monday following his new development. Dr. Wright, at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, has been treating Ja’Dan since birth. He has never seen Ja’Dan take a step…until now.

“Dr. Wright always had high hopes, and he has stuck with Ja’Dan since he was five months old,” Nicole said. “When Ja’Dan walked to him, I wish I could tell you the look on Dr. Wright’s face. It was amazing. He said Ja’Dan was one of his patients with the most serious defect, and he is proving everybody wrong. There were tears of joy.”

Nicole was told Ja’Dan would require another surgery when he turned 10 years old. But with his progress, the surgery has been postponed.

Although it is still a learning process, Ja’Dan is eager to do the things all the other children he knows are doing. But that has never stopped him in the past.

Even physically disabled, Ja’Dan makes his own breakfast, his favorite pancakes. He brushes his own teeth and washes his face every day. He drives a race car with the neighborhood children to keep up with them. He plays basketball, and he is doing well in his second-grade class.

“He has found more freedom,” Nicole said. “Anything any other kids are doing, he is trying to do now. And I know he will because he has passed every test that has been put before him.”

Ja’Dan plans to be a policeman or a firefighter when he gets older. He is excited about his Halloween costume. And he will even race you when walking down a sidewalk.

“Bet I can beat you,” he said, with a smile, in a local park.

And his parents just smile with him as they struggle to keep up.