LYNNFIELD, Mass. — A first grader from Lynnfield has defied all odds after developing an extremely rare bacterial infection that only 5 percent of children survive.
But that infection and the medicine that helped save 7-year-old Sam Halpern's life also cost him his limbs.
But that isn't stopping Sam, who is back in school, from having big dreams.
"I want to be a basketball player," he told Boston 25 News.
Sam is a hand and double leg amputee.
"So Sam is a bilateral below the knee amputee so his leg ends about here aproximately," said Michelle Halpern, Sam's mother.
"They kinda hurted for the first part but then when I get used to them they won’t hurt," said Sam.
But the Summer Street Elementary School student has re-learned how to walk and how to be a leftie.
"On his right hand he lost all his fingers and on his left hand he has smaller digits but they're all there," his mother said.
This, after exactly one year ago, Sam came down with what seemed to be the flu.
But when his mom, who just happens to be an ICU nurse at Children's Hospital, took him to the pediatrician, Sam's health started deteriorating before their eyes.
"His color changed. He was not as alert and awake as he had been," his mother said.
A bacteria was invading his body, sending it into septic shock.
Sam was given medicine and put on machines that helped him survive, but the tradeoff was his limbs.
"He was on machines that should have left him with even worse injuries than he already has and his are pretty terrible in some ways but his important things, his brain, his heart, they're intact and he's the same kid he was before," his mother said.
Now back in the first grade after spending last year in the hospital and rehab, Sam is adjusting to his new normal.
"He's an inspiration to all of us. He teaches us to be grateful for what we have and just to work really really hard," said Jill Juliano, Sam's teacher.
His mother calls Sam "her hero."
"Sam is my hero because he's taught me what it is to face real adversity and come out the other side of it," Halpern said.
And Sam's advice to other kids dealing with similar challenges are great words to live by.
"Keep going. Just stay balanced and just walk forward and relax," said Sam.
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