Toddler who lost limbs gets 'magic legs,' becomes storybook superhero

Two-year-old Ethan Faria, who lost limbs to a rare bacterial infection, is the inspiration for the children's book Marley & Maverick Find Ethan's Magic Legs.

Ethan Faria lost his legs, parts of his arms to a rare infection

Ethan Faria, 2, who had his legs amputated, inspired the book Marley & Maverick Find Ethan's Magic Legs. ((Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC))

It's 9 a.m. on Monday and the sun is spilling into the room at the rehab hospital — but nothing is brighter than Ethan Faria's smile.

While most kids his age are at daycare, this two-year-old is spending the morning in physiotherapy.

Ethan lies on his back and waits patiently for his mom to put on his legs — a pair of red prosthetics with grey running shoes.

"We don't call them prosthetics; they're just his magic legs," Rachel Faria, Ethan's mom, told CBC News Toronto. 

We don't call them prosthetics; they're just his magic legs.- Rachel Faria

Magic legs for a boy that some would say is a walking miracle.

In July of 2015, Ethan was diagnosed with haemophilus influenzae type B, a rare bacterial infection that spread fast, causing the toddler to go into septic shock.

Doctors prepared his parents for the worst. 

"They sat us down and told us, 'Your son might not make it,' and this was a child that was thriving and laughing ... and we got there and our lives crumbled slowly," Rachel Faria said. 

Doctors amputated a finger on Ethan's left hand, part of his right arm and his legs below the knees.

After 10 weeks at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, he was released in October 2015.

Two-year-old Ethan went into septic shock soon after being diagnosed with a rare bacterial infection. Doctors amputated both his legs below the knees, his right hand and a finger on his left hand. ((Jon Castell/CBC))

His road to recovery is now a storybook comeback.

Ethan inspired the new children's book Marley & Maverick Find Ethan's Magic Legs

Ethan Faria,2, can now walk with prosthetic legs

CBC News Toronto

4 years ago
Ethan Faria,2, had his legs amputated in October 2015 because of a rare bacterial infection, but now prothetic legs help him walk. 1:18

"I think it's like a resourceful book for other children who have lost a limb," Rachel Faria said. "It just gives a lot of hope."

In the book, by Kari Ward and Wire Publishing, the toddler becomes a superhero with magic limbs that heal and spread love and laughter.

In real life, Ethan's superhuman powers are revealed at every session with his physiotherapist.

Ethan with his mom, Rachel Faria, pose with the children's book inspired by Ethan's journey. ((Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC))

"He is unbelievable. He is the hardest working two-year-old I've ever met," said Lisa Engle, who's been practicing 17 years.

Engle has been working with Ethan an hour a day, four days a week, for the past year. In that time he has had to relearn many skills, like how to sit up, lie down and roll over without the help of all his limbs.

Three months into his treatment he was given his "magic legs," and a month later he took his first steps.

"What I do remember about his first steps is that Rachel and I were losing our minds, we were so excited, and Ethan was kind of relaxed.... It seemed like he didn't think it was such a big deal. He just did it." Engle said. 

Ethan continues to surprise everyone with his progress.

Physiotherapist Lisa Engle has been working with Ethan for the past year, helping him relearn skills like sitting up and lying down without the help of all his limbs. ((Makda Ghebreslassie/CBC))

On Wednesday, he and his prosthetic legs will make their big entrance at a book launch and fundraiser at Artscape Sandbox in Toronto at 6 p.m.

The majority of the money raised will go towards supporting the Faria family and Sick Kids hospital.

Ethan's family, their friends and maybe even some of the hospital staff will be in the crowd, cheering him on every step of the way.

"It's been a roller-coaster for the whole family and, yeah, thank goodness he's doing great now," his mother said. "He's smiling and laughing — and walking."