Six years later, Shawnee man defies odds after complex surgery, rehabilitation

SHAWNEE, Kan. -- Six years ago FOX4 brought you the story of a metro teen born with a unique disease who got a rare surgery.

Now he's overcoming obstacles, and climbing to new heights. At 21, C.J. Hebert is defying the odds and refusing to stop.

"It's always great to get some stress out on the bag," said Hebert who loves to box at recently was hired as a personal trainer at TITLE Boxing Club in Overland Park.

However, being in the ring wasn't always possible for him. The last time we talked to him, in 2012, he had just learned to walk again.

"I'm looking forward to be able to run down the street whenever I want," said 14-year-old Hebert. "Just play basketball with friends."

Hebert was born with Cerebral Folate Deficiency, a rare disease that effected the development of his right leg.

Six years ago he went through a surgery called rotationplasty at a facility in Florida. The surgery turned his leg around so his knee could work as a hip, and his ankle could become a knee.

He's able to walk with the help of a prosthetic leg. However, while the surgery helped him walk, it didn't help the insecurities and depression that was going on inside.

"Just one day, in the midst of all the depression, and all the hard stuff I was going through, and the pain,"" Hebert said. "I just woke up one morning and I told myself, I didn't go through everything that I went through to get here."

He didn't give up. Hebert started going to the track at his gym and walked around it each day until he didn't need to use crutches, and walked the track on his own.

Now, he works out and goes to Freedom Physical Therapy in Shawnee twice a week. He went to get the help of physical therapist Donny Dequine is helping him gain the strength to use a new prosthetic leg to run.

"He's here every week getting after it," Dequine said. "Going after the things that he wants. Every time he comes he brings something new, like I want to skateboard this week - okay, let's see what that looks like."

Hebert even climbed the Grand Canyon and Machu Picchu.

"I just remember looking back down at Machu Picchu and thinking this is just another thing I conquered," Hebert said "It’s no different than the Grand Canyon, it’s no different than the first hike that I went on. It’s the same feeling every time."

Hebert's next goal is to become a coach and personal trainer. He's doing that through his new job at TITLE.

"If I can change the life of one person, then I'm going to want to change the life of three, and then I'm going to want to change the life of five, and I kind of want to keep doing that from there on out."

He relates his life to the story of the blind man in the Bible. Hebert even inscribed it in a tattoo on his arm: 'This happened so that the power of God could be seen in him.'

"I think that I went through everything that I went through so the power of God can be seen in me," Hebert said. "I can't help somebody, I can't relate to somebody if I haven't been through it myself."

"He had every reason to be afraid to move and he wasn't," Dequine said. "Now he's climbing mountains, and skateboarding, and who knows what else he`s going to do."

Hebert is training to run with a new prosthetic joint he is waiting to arrive, and someday he hopes to start an organization to help kids with disabilities.