November 29, 2022
It’s rare growing up in Indiana without feeling the lure of basketball. Jonathin Perez is no exception. The 9-year-old works on his game constantly. “The best thing about it is how I can get better and better at it. And it's fun to play in tournaments.”
Jonathin’s interest in the game piqued when he was 6 years old. His mother Katie took him to an adaptive sports expo where the wheelchair basketball coach allowed him to give the game a try. “I took a shot and I told my mom that I really wanted to play,” says Jonathin.
“He wasn’t very good at first,” says Katie. “But he kept at it and he’s doing really good now.” This will be Jonathin’s fourth season with the RHI Junior Racers, a wheelchair basketball team.
Jonathin plays other sports as well. He plays adaptive tennis and likes baseball, too.
When he was 4 years old, Jonathin began experiencing flu-like symptoms and leg pain. His condition worsened quickly, and his doctor sent him to Riley Children’s Health. A team of specialists diagnosed Jonathin with necrotizing fasciitis and sepsis. They saved his life from the raging infection. “He was on the brink of death, and we were able to pull him back from that,” says Orthopedic Surgeon Ryan Fitzgerald, M.D. “If he’d been here a couple of hours later, he probably would have died.” Doctors eventually had to amputate his right leg. Jonathin spent three months at Riley and learned to walk with a prosthetic leg.
“Without them, we wouldn’t have him right now,” says Jonathin’s mother. “It’s been amazing.”
Jonathin’s dad, Evodio, echoes those thoughts. “I was very grateful for everybody that cared for Jonathin in that situation. I can’t imagine where we would be without Riley. To meet the nurses, doctors and caregivers, I’m very grateful.”
Now Jonathin’s family looks forward to future games and his role as a Riley Champion. With wheelchair basketball, mastering the fundamentals has been a challenge. “At first, he was spinning in circles in the chair and was just learning how to dribble,” says Katie. “But he made his first basket last year in a game and it was pretty cool.” They’re now anticipating the opportunity to share his story as a Riley Champion and help others facing similar challenges.