'Now I can do anything': Teenage amputee's new lease on life
AT SEVEN years old, Kane Bilton made a decision any person would struggle with when he asked doctors to amputate his leg.
The Pelican Waters now-teenager was born with a short left limb and three toes on his foot, which surgeons said made him a perfect candidate for leg lengthening from age six.
His leg was broken, re-broken, braced and stretched 5.1cm within the first year, but the painful process didn't stop his ankle growing inwards.
After multiple corrective surgeries but ongoing difficulty walking, the Biltons were faced with the heart-wrenching decision; do they endure more surgeries, or do they opt for a prosthetic?
Mother Tess tells of her and her husband Anthony's struggle, but said ultimately it was Kane's body and Kane's decision.
"He decided he would go ahead with the amputation, because the end result would be no matter how many operations he had, the end result would never be as good as a prosthetic would offer," she said.
"He would always struggle with walking, have trouble with his knee while walking, which affects hip and lower back."
Now aged 14, Kane finally feels proud to show off his prosthetics after a local business collaboration produced limbs with two incredible three-dimensional flame designs of his choosing.
Hydrographics Noosaville owner Aiden O'Sullivan adds his creative flare to prosthetics created by Nambour's Dewet Heyns of Dynamic Prosthetics and Orthotics.
The pair both agree the partnership helps the self-esteem of their clients, ages infant through to elderly.
Kane is no exception and is awe-struck by his best legs yet, which his friends tell him are "sick" and "rad".
But for the Year 8 Unity College student it's about more than the aesthetics.
"It just makes me feel like I can fit in and be much more normal," he said.
"With some other legs I couldn't do as much... I felt annoyed.
"Now there's nothing I can't really do."
Tess admires her son's strength as she tells of her own hurt at the harsh words, the pointing and the stares her son endures.
"Kids can be incredibly cruel, they can be very amazing and welcoming, but also say and do some horrible things," she said.
"As a day-to-day thing Kane has to deal with comments made about him or his leg... but the type of kid he is, he doesn't come home complaining or angry.
"He just thinks its their problem, people are always going to say stuff, but he just gets on with living which I think is amazing."
And though her son has always put on a brave face, she believes his newest "super-sonic" limb is a confidence boost for her brave boy.
"I look at it and I think, 'That leg is just beautiful'," she said.
"It has to help, even in some small shape to help the self esteem, to say, 'Yes, I have a prosthetic leg', and be proud of it instead of being pointed at all the time because you're different.
"But there's your little stamp you can put on yourself... your creativity and your individualisation, and be proud."