- Associated Press - Saturday, October 7, 2017

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) - Anybody attending the Snake River Comic Con in Pocatello last weekend was sure to see plenty of attendees wearing innovative costumes.

But few are as striking as 21-year-old Nick Porter.

Porter is known in comic con circles as Nick the Zombie, and whenever he attends a sci-fi convention, he goes all out with the gory makeup and torn-up clothing.

But what makes Porter’s limbless zombie character so remarkable to other cosplayers is not a makeup trick or special effect. When he was 2 years old, Porter was afflicted with meningococcal meningitis and had to have his arms and legs amputated.

‘SEVERE DISEASE’

Meningococcal meningitis is a bacterial infection that causes swelling of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord. In some cases, the infection can cause permanent disabilities, including the loss of the patient’s limbs.

“It’s a severe disease,” Nick said. “It cuts off circulation to the limbs.”

After the diagnosis 19 years ago, Porter’s parents, Steven and AnneMarie, were initially told by doctors that 2-year-old Nick would need to have his hands and his legs below the knees amputated.

“The doctors told us they were going to save as much as they can, but there was so much damage,” AnneMarie said.

In the end, the meningitis took Nick’s arms below the elbow and most of his legs. He also had to have reconstructive surgery for his nose and mouth.

NO SIDELINES

Though the disease was devastating for Nick and his family, his parents did everything they could to provide their son with a comfortable childhood in their hometown of Kelso, Washington.

But even from an early age, Nick showed that he was not going to be hindered by his handicap.

His parents got him involved in multiple after school activities, including a spot on his junior high school’s wrestling team, where he proved difficult to pin to the mat. In high school, he served as a hall monitor by helping the school resource officer patrol the hallways.

As a child, Nick was fitted with prosthetic legs. However, he found them uncomfortable to use, so he learned to get around with what remains of his legs. Though he uses a wheelchair, he has learned to walk on the ground as quickly as an adult with two full legs.

“If you tell him he can’t do something, he’ll just say ‘yes I can’ and then find a way to do it,” AnneMarie said.

And Nick has always had the support of his friends, many of whom he met in first grade and then followed him right through high school graduation.

“I fit right in,” he said of his time in school.

During his downtime at home, Nick often enjoys playing the zombie apocalypse first-person shooter game “Left 4 Dead” on his Xbox. Steven said he is amazed at how quickly his son can use the bottom of his arms to work the game controller.

“Watching him use a controller is like watching those guys who can solve a Rubik’s Cube in two seconds,” Steven said.

During the winter months, Nick plows his parents’ driveway by leveraging his arms to operate the snow shovel. Recently, a haunted attraction near the family’s home was vandalized. Nick participated in the clean-up by grabbing a broom and sweeping, using a similar method that he uses to plow snow.

No matter what Nick is faced with, his parents say he always wants to jump in and participate.

“He doesn’t want to just sit on the sidelines,” Steven said.

‘I WANT TO DO THAT’

A couple years ago, Nick’s sister, Trentina, dressed up in a costume and attended the Wizard World Comic Con in Portland, Oregon.

“Wizard World was where it all began,” Steven said. “His sister dressed up and Nick saw all the attention she was getting and said ‘I want to do that.’”

So on the last day of the convention, Nick showed up dressed as a limbless zombie and was an immediate hit with the other attendees and cosplayers.

From that point, Nick’s newfound fame spread rapidly. He soon found himself working at various haunted attractions in Oregon, where he says he always has fun scaring visitors in his zombie costume.

Though Nick has only been attending comic cons dressed as a zombie for the past few years, his notoriety has already caught Hollywood’s attention.

At other conventions, the cast members of the popular “The Walking Dead” TV series on AMC have been known to leave their booths to seek out photos with Nick in his zombie gear.

However, Nick says his favorite zombie-themed TV series is “Z Nation” on Syfy. He recently traveled to Spokane to audition for the show.

OVERCOMING ADVERSITY

The Snake River Comic Con was particularly special for Nick.

This was the first time he was been invited to a convention as a special guest and panelist. In the past, Nick has always participated in conventions as an attendee, but now he has his own booth and table.

His parents were also at comic con in Pocatello. To go along with their son’s gimmick, they wore shirts that read “Zombie Handlers.”

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Information from: Idaho State Journal, https://www.journalnet.com

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