March 8, 2021

Stevens County Times

Your spot for community news in Stevens County, Minnesota

Local TV star with 12 tiny toes

For most people, getting a shot at being on TV is fun and exciting. For two-year-old Waylon Pullis, it probably was neither of those. However, he was the star of a TLC segment that aired on national TV on Thursday, Jan. 23. The segment was called ‘My feet are killing me.’ Waylon was one of just a few people nationwide to have their story told on the program.

Waylon was born with polydactyly, which is a genetic condition that results in multiple fingers and/or toes. Waylon had 12 toes when he was born, but the correct number of fingers. It was not a surprise to Waylon’s parents, Kody and Jessica (Ascheman) Pullis. After all, it is genetic, which means that Jessica had it as well as her mother, grandmother and other relatives through her grandmother’s side of the family. 

Waylon also has syndactyly, which is webbed or fused toes. His right foot had six separate toes and was very wide. His left foot had six toes, but toe five and six were fused together.

Jessica actually had 12 fingers along with 12 toes and had surgery to remove them when she was in elementary school. Her mother, Sonia Kannegiesser Boser, also had surgery to remove the extra digits.

Soon after he was born, Kody and Jessica met with a surgeon in Fargo to discuss the options and decide if surgery was what they wanted to do. The surgeon recommended waiting until he was at least a year old due to possible complications with anesthesia and brain development. Just before the one year appointment, Jessica joined a group on facebook for parents of children with polydactyl. She posted a picture of Waylon’s toes to see if anyone had tips on surgery, recovery time, etc.

Soon after, Jessica got what she thought was a suspicious phone call. It was from a casting agency asking if they would be interested in filling out a questionnaire and possibly having Waylon’s surgery filmed. Some of the questions were personal so Jessica didn’t share an awful lot about their identity.

In March 2019 they met with the surgeon again and took x rays. Waylon was now one year old. The x rays showed that the fifth toe on his left foot was the extra and it had partially formed metatarsal bone in his foot. This would make the surgery more complicated and he would need a skin graft done to cover his fused toe. Skin would be taken from somewhere else on his body and then he would have casts for 4-6 weeks.

It was difficult for Kody and Jessica to make the decision about surgery, not wanting to see their little boy in pain. However, he was walking now and having issues with shoes not fitting and extra toes hanging off the sides of his sandals. He would come home from daycare with bright red baby toes from where his shoes rubbed. They decided to do the surgery in the fall so Waylon could enjoy summer and not worry about the casts.

In July, Jessica got a call from another person from the casting agency. This time she was able to look the person up and found out it was a real place and not a scam. They asked more questions and said they would get back to them. A few weeks later, they scheduled a Skype interview with Waylon and Jessica. Waylon really liked the person talking on the computer. A few weeks after that, they got a call from the producer of “My Feet Are Killing Me.” Waylon had been chosen and two weeks later, they were on an airplane to California.

Waylon’s surgery was on Sept. 27 and was recorded for the program. Waylon was a little nervous when all the nurses and surgeon came in but they gave him a sedative that made him goofy and giggly. His surgeon was Ebonie Vincent. Dr Vincent is a nationally recognized podiatrist who specializes in reconstructive foot surgery and pediatric foot conditions. Jessica stated that she was so sweet and good at what she does. Surgery took two and a half hours. The surgeon was able to make a skin flap with the existing skin so he didn’t need a skin graft and only soft casts for a week with dressings for four weeks.

Hugging his stuffed dog named Ra Ra, Wahlon slept most of the day after surgery. He only needed mild pain relievers for a day and had to be off his feet for a week. The family decided to take him on a tour of the California coast during those days and even to the beach where he loved the sand.

It took about two weeks for the right foot to heal and 4-5 weeks for the left to heal. The toe on his left foot got infected two weeks after and they had to do daily cleanings and betadine dressings. Waylon was not a fan of the cleanings but he did like to help wrap the gauze around his foot. He even used a safety scissors to cut it himself. At six weeks, they flew back out to California to do a follow-up and everything had healed nicely.  Waylon is now four months post surgery and the scars are already starting to fade. 

Waylon’s segment aired on TLC at 9 p.m. on January 23. People can view the episode by going to the TLC website and look for the “My feet are killing me” segments. 

Jessica stated that Waylon did better than expected through everything. She was told that young children do better with the surgery because they heal faster and don’t remember it. On the day of surgery the nurses gave him medicine and juice in a syringe and he really liked that. “He’d do whatever they wanted if it meant he got some juice,” Jessica added. He has no idea that he was a TV star for a brief time with his twelve tiny toes.

Katie Erdman