Jake Finbonner, Lummi, an 11-year old of considerable inner strength and courage, will be receiving the Seattle Children’s Inspirational Youth award today at the 77th Annual Seattle Sports Star of the Year banquet, the Seattle Times reports. The award couldn’t be going to a more deserving, amazing individual.
Six years ago Jake was playing basketball at the Boys & Girls Club when he fell and bumped his mouth against the base of a portable basketball hoop. As reported by James Eng of MSNBC.com, the surface of the base of the hoop contained Strep A bacteria, which causes a tissue-destroying disease called necrotizing fascitis. This extremely rare condition goes by another name—flesh-eating bacteria.
On Jake’s website, JakeFinkBonner.com, he relates that fateful day: “When I hit my mouth, my tooth pierced the inside of my lip and from that small pierce is where the Strep A entered into my body. By the next day I was fighting for my life.”
Jake was hospitalized for months. He underwent several surgeries as he fought for his life.
“They had taken him apart. There was nothing to see of Jake’s face except his nose and chin. Everything else on his head was completely covered in bandages,” his mother, Elsa Finkbonner, told MSNBC.com. Doctors told Elsa and her husband, Don, that the outlook was grim.
The doctors told the Finkbonners that now was the time to pray. A priest, and family friend, Fr. Tim Sauer, was called in to administer last rites. “When I was called to the hospital it was basically to help the family prepare to say goodbye and let go. His probability of survival at that point was very slender,” Sauer told MSNBC.com.
The Finkbonners, along with being devout Catholics, are also Lummi on Don Finbonner’s side. Sauer urged the family to pray for the Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha to intercede on Jake’s behalf. The Finkbonners were joined by family and friends who prayed for Jake’s recovery. Tekakwitha was a Mohawk-Algonquin woman born in 1656 who was disfigured by by smallpox when she was four years old.
After multiple surgeries to remove the necrotic flesh, Jake took an unexpected, and glorious, turn for the better on the ninth day of his hospitalization. This was the same day that a relic of the Tekakwitha was brought to the hospital from the national office of the Tekakwitha Conference, a Catholic Native American religious organization in Great Falls, Montana. Jake’s vital signs began improving on that day, with the relic lying on the pillow next to his head.
“He didn’t allow (the disease) to stop him in pursuing what he enjoys so much and is passionate about,” said his mother, Elsa Finkbonner, to the Seattle Times. “This has done a lot to motivate him to keep going forward with following his dreams.”