Cole Wooten stands on his knees, bobbing his head and bouncing to the beat of hip hop music inside an Augusta dance studio.
The 11-year-old is taking part in his weekly dance class at Center Stage Dance Academy. His fellow dancers are moving to the same beat, except they're on their feet.
"One day they all have to dance on their knees," Cole said to his dance instructor.
Moments later, all five children were dancing to the same routine while kneeling.
"See how hard it is?" Cole said to the group with a smile after the song ended.
For Cole, dancing on his knees is nothing new. In fact, he's been doing it for as long as he can remember.
That might all soon change when Cole undergoes surgery Thursday. He'll have both feet amputated, giving him a chance to walk with prosthetic feet.
At birth, Cole was diagnosed with epidermolysis bullosa, a rare disorder that causes his fragile skin to slough off and blister. The disease also affects his internal organs.
"He's missing some chromosomes, so his skin doesn't adhere to itself like normal skin does," said Cole's mother, Pam Wooten.
Only about one in every 50,000 infants are born with some type of epidermolysis bullosa, according to the Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association of America.
Cole had gone through 75 to 80 procedures since birth and became a patient at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital as a baby.
"They gave us a very, very short life expectancy," Wooten said. "They weren't even expecting Cole to come home from the hospital."
More than 11 years later, the Wootens could soon see another miracle -- watching their son walk with the help of prosthetics.
Both of Cole's feet will be amputated above the ankle Thursday at the Shriners Hospital for Children in Greenville, S.C.
"We're praying that prosthetics are going to work," Wooten said. "We really have no idea, because no EB (epidermolysis bullosa) child has ever tried to go into prosthetics."
Because of the disease, Cole's feet have been heavily affected, forcing him to walk primarily on his knees and confining him to a wheelchair, said his mother. His feet have rotated inward and doctors decided that the surgery is the best option.
"Cole's way of thinking is, if we do nothing, then he'll be totally confined to his wheelchair, which he hates," Wooten said. "If we do something, then there's the possibility that he will be able to walk.
"If it doesn't work, he'll still be confined to his wheelchair, but at least he did everything that was available."
The decision to have the surgery, Wooten said, was ultimately up to Cole, an outgoing and boisterous fifth-grader at Stevens Creek Elementary School.
After much prayer, Cole said he wanted to go ahead with the procedure.
"I knew it was going to work," he said.
Before leaving for Greenville, Cole went to several fifth-grade classes at his school to discuss the surgery and answer any questions his fellow pupils had.
Like most boys his age, Cole enjoys a plethora of activities.
"He's always very optimistic," said Taryn Morris, his hip-hop dance instructor at Center Stage, which Cole's mother owns. "I very rarely hear him complain about anything. He tries everything."
Cole plays with the Augusta Bulldogs wheelchair basketball teams.
"I just thought there's not really anything else to do," Cole said about joining the team. "I wanted to play a sport that I can do with a wheelchair."
In addition to basketball, Cole likes watching baseball, football and hockey -- as long as they're Georgia teams.
The 11-year-old is also an avid fan of professional wrestling. He would like to one day meet wrestler The Undertaker and Atlanta Braves star Chipper Jones -- his two favorite athletes.
Cole even has aspirations of training for the paralympics.
Wooten said the family treats Cole just like other boys his age.
"If he wants to try something, he tries it," she said. "If he can do it, great. If not, then he just avoids it."
After his surgery, Cole likely will remain in the hospital for about two weeks and will finish fifth grade at home, Wooten said. In August, Cole will start sixth grade at Stallings Island Middle School.
Though he's nervous and excited for the surgery, Cole said after it's over, he can't wait to dance on his feet and ride a bicycle, which his father promised to buy him.
"I've always had to ride a skateboard," said Cole, pondering for a moment.
"At least I can do luge on it," he said. "I'll probably still ride the skateboard.
On his knees, Cole participates in a hip hop dance class at Center Stage Dance Academy. [CAPTION]
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