A Virginia teen lost his foot to cancer but didn’t let that interfere with his love of sports.
Sebastian Bonaiuto is a long snapper and linebacker at Edison High School in Alexandria, but in 2016, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. He underwent several rounds of chemotherapy before doctors told him they'd have to amputate his left foot.
“I was pretty scared,” he said. “But I was just wondering if I could get back to playing sports or if I was going to be able to walk, even.”
“The amputation was probably a big shock and a jolt for anybody to hear,” said his father, Dominic Bonaiuto.
At 16, Sebastian has faced more adversity than most adults. He watched his mother die from breast cancer just a few years ago.
“We’ve had to deal with cancer twice in the past decade,” his father said. “He’s seen things and grown up faster than most people ever have to.”
“That also showed me that you can be strong through all of it, and you don’t have to let the cancer take over your life,” Sebastian said.
John Hattingh, who owns Prosthetic Care Facility of Virginia in Leesburg, helped Sebastian get his life back thanks to science and cutting-edge technology.
“I think the thing that makes him so special is that he does not give up,” he said
Hattingh and his son Darren designed and built a prosthetic for Sebastian that he could use on and off the football field.
“This is a 50-50 partnership,” Hattingh said. “I build the device, I make sure it works, but he’s the one that takes that to the next level.”
Sebastian made strides for his team.
“I think I surprised a lot of people by how well I was able to do,” he said.
“As that parent, I’m always like, a little bit of hesitation, like, how was that hit?” his father said. “It’s also a great amount of pride.”
Sebastian was tearing it up on the turf, but he wanted to compete in swimming, too. That led to a new challenge for the prosthetics team, and they delivered once again.
“We had to design something that could get him to walk to the water’s edge and then still function in the water’s edge,” Hattingh said.
“I don’t think there’s anything else like this out there,” Sebastian said about his prosthetic fin.
“The first swim that he did was the butterfly, and it was crazy how high he raised his chest out of the water with the power of this fin,” Hattingh said.
Throughout his journey, Sebastian has been a role model for his teammates and classmates.
Now cancer-free, he will continue to get scans every year to make sure he’s healthy, and he said he's looking forward to playing lacrosse in the spring.
People from as far away as Poland and Australia travel to the Prosthetic Care Facility of Virginia to have a prosthetic built and fitted by the Hattinghs.
Reported by Doreen Gentzler, produced by Patricia Fantis and edited by Perkins Broussard.