For most high-school students, summer means spending time with friends, participating in outdoor activities, relaxing at home or working part time.
Blake Collins' summer will be very different.
Blake, a student at Greenbrier High School, will spend eight weeks of his summer in Baltimore recovering from limb-lengthening surgery and undergoing intensive physical therapy.
"The main thing is not thinking about it, because if I think about it, then I'll get really nervous," the 18-year-old Evans resident said. "I have a real high tolerance for pain."
Blake has been coping with surgeries since he was a toddler, said his mother, Genice Collins.
She added that when he was just 2 years old, and again at age 4, he underwent two heel-cord lengthening operations and has dealt with physical and occupational therapy his entire life.
Then, at age 13, Blake started having hip problems. After two hip surgeries, he now needs an operation to lengthen his right leg by four centimeters.
Collins said she was initially unaware that her son's hip problems were related to his previous childhood ailments. Doctors said that Blake's problems resulted from a bone deformity in his hip.
"When the hip became involved, he started to face the more major problems with everything," Collins said. "Right now, he can't even run normally. He can't do a lot of things without being in pain."
As Blake recovered from previous surgeries, he missed too many days of school and received two incomplete grades during one semester, but said he expects to graduate from high school next year.
Blake's surgery is scheduled for Wednesday at Baltimore's International Center for Limb Lengthening at Sinai Hospital. This will mark his seventh surgery in 18 years.
Dr. Shawn Standard, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Sinai Hospital, will operate on Blake's right leg. Standard, originally from Atlanta, earned his medical degree at the Medical College of Georgia in 1995.
The operation will take approximately four hours, said Standard's assistant, Barbara Salkin, while the initial lengthening process could take between two and four months. The operation requires intensive physical therapy during and after that time.
"The therapy is rather painful at times because you're making the limb do something to help stretch it," Salkin said.
After the surgery, an external device called an Ilizarov, which is designed to stretch the bone and lengthen the limb, will be placed on Blake's right leg, Salkin said. Knobs on the device will need to be turned each day throughout the lengthening procedure, she added.
"I wish I could take it away for him, because it's going to be an extremely painful surgery," his mother said.
She said special precautions will have to be made at school after his surgery.
A single mother -- Blake's father died in 2001 -- Collins will make the trip to Baltimore with her son, but she said she doesn't yet know the cost of the operation.
While insurance will cover part of the procedure, it won't pay for living, food or traveling expenses.
Collins has opened an account at SunTrust Bank for any donations to be made on his behalf.
"They're a fine family," Salkin said. "Dr. Standard is looking forward to making a difference in Blake's life."
Though Blake knows the challenging road ahead of him, he maintains a positive attitude.
"I'm really optimistic about it," he said. "I'm really not that much of a pessimist. If I was a pessimist, then I wouldn't be able to live with myself."
His mother also tends to see the proverbial cup as half full.
"I'm sure it's going to be a very trying experience, but I'm hoping a very good experience too," she said.
"We're hoping those things will get better and that he'll be able to lead a more normal, productive life.
Blake, who has dreams of becoming a broadcast journalist, believes his faith also will play a large part in his recovery.
"I'm a really strong Christian man," he said, "and with God's help, I am pretty much going to get through it."
For those who wish to donate to Blake's benefit account, donations can be made at any SunTrust location under the account name Genice C. Collins for the benefit of Blake Jeremi Collins.
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