By Jerry Del Priore
Patrick Filosa knows what it’s like to battle through arduous times. Two and half years ago, the doctors amputated his left leg below the knee after several years of pain and struggle. Now, the die-hard New York Mets fan is giving back to young amputees by participating in fundraising walks and other special events.
Filosa’s last walk on Sunday, August 23 on the boardwalk at Grand Boulevard in Long Beach, New York for Camp No Limits, the only camp for young people with limb loss and their families, raised $2,561 through his efforts alone, 73 percent of his team’s $3,500 goal. In total, his team raised $3,901, exceeding the amount by $401.
Filosa was born with Neurofibromatosis, a genetically inherited disorder of the nervous system which mainly affects the development of nerve cell tissues, causing tumors (neurofibromas) to develop on nerves, and may lead to other abnormalities.
According to rightdiagnosis.com, only one in 3,000 develop the malady, which caused benign tumors on his spine, and the doctors removed most of them at the age of six.
The 27-year-old Brooklyn native was also born with Pseudarthrosis, a condition characterized by deossification of a weight-bearing long bone, followed by bending and pathologic fractures, with inability to form normal callus.
It caused Filosa’s left tibia to break twice, and refused to mend, becoming significantly shorter than his right leg as he grew.
“I had about five surgeries to have it fixed,” Filosa said. “The bone was so weak that I would do something, and it would break.”
Filosa had leg operations up until 17, but the doctors said they couldn’t do much else for him.
“I had a bone graft; they removed part of my hip to put in my leg. They did a couple of other things to try fix it, but nothing worked,” he explained. “At 17, they pretty much said ‘stay the way you are, or have it amputated.’ At that point, I said ‘no. I went through all that, I’m not going to have my leg amputated now.”’
So, he wore a brace, and walked with a pronounced limp, leading to severe hip and back problems over time. That didn’t stop Filosa from partaking in sports throughout his childhood, though, playing for fun, despite his disability.
But it came to the point in which Filosa felt he needed to make a decision.
“I had a bad limp. My hip and my back started to hurt. That’s when I decided that it would be best to have it amputated,” he recollected. “I just had enough walking with the limp. It was tiring. I felt a little unconfident about it, walking like that. I felt I would have a better life.
“I had no motion in the ankle, so it was pretty much just there,” Filosa added. “It took a lot of decision to actually make the choice, and it was the right choice.”
Since learning how to walk again with his state-of-the-art new Mets-themed leg, Filosa searched for a way to make a positive impact on the lives of others going through similar circumstances, who may not have had the same choice he did.
“It’s just one of those things that I felt like since I got my leg amputated, I always wanted to give back to the community of amputees, to help them,” Filosa said. “With me, it was my choice to have it done. I was at a positive mind about it. And there are people with diabetes, cancer, or got in some type of accident, and they have no choice about losing a limb. They’re down about it, sad about it, and I try to lift them up.”
Filosa even garnered a measure of media attention for his Mets-themed prosthetic leg and fundraising walking efforts, which is implemented and instituted by his prosthetist, Robert Schulman, who selects the organization for which to fundraise.
In 2014, they, along with other walkers, helped raise $10,000 for the Living Water Children’s Foundation, whose mission is to ensure quality of life for orphans and other children in need. Filosa said he raised over $2,200 by himself.
Filosa’s love of sports and philanthropic efforts, though selfless in nature, has reaped some benefits.
After a story about him appeared in ESPN the Magazine, the Chicago White Sox reached out to him to express gratitude for mentioning current manager and former Mets’ third baseman Robin Ventura’s memorable 1999 postseason moment against the Atlanta Braves at Shea Stadium (former home of the Mets) in the article.
“A week or two after the article came out, the White Sox got in contact with me because I talked about being at Ventura’s grand slam single in the rain in the playoffs,” said Filosa, who works as a customer service representative for a checking cashing facility while attending Kings Borough Community College.
“They thanked me for mentioning Ventura, and wanted to send me something. And they sent me an autographed picture of Ventura.”
While it’s nice to be recognized for performing good deeds for the less fortunate, Filosa, who hopes to be a prosthesis in the future, said his ultimate goal is to raise as much money as possible for the cause.
Filosa’s next physical fundraising exertion, an obstacle course race on Long Island, will take place sometime in October (no set date has been established at the moment), with the pre-fundraising event on Saturday, April 2nd at Three Jolly Pigeons, located at 6802 Third Ave., in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Check out https://www.crowdrise.com/team-legacy/fundraiser/patrickfilosa for updated details.