Happy New Year to all and I hope that 2014 is a fantastic year for you!
My 2013 ended on a high note, I was privileged to have met Felicity. So often you look at a situation and think to yourself – this is a bad or impossible situation…..
Whenever I work with young children they have a way of surprising, inspiring and showing me how well they are able to adapt to tough situations without them even realising it.
Felicity was born with a very rare defect, she has no arms or legs. She may be just a torso, but she has the brightest face and mind! Though her left arm is just longer than a 5cm stump, it’s all she has and uses it quite well. She is now able to use this to hold her bottle, a biscuit to eat and also sometimes to paint.
When I first met her she had only just turned one, and at that stage I felt that there wasn’t much anyone could do for her. A year later they came to see me again. During this period, Felicity had shown amazing development and had learnt to use her little arm as described above. She had also learnt to roll around to get to where she wanted to be. When Karen, her care taker, seated her in a baby Bimbo chair she was also quite happy.
At first our plan was to create a cosmetic prosthetic arm for her as well as put some wheels on the Bimbo chair, allowing her to push herself from one point to another. This idea soon evolved into creating an arm with no elbow joint and just a functional prosthetic hook. This would allow her to pick items up off the floor etc. After putting more thought into her situation, we realised that this would only provide a very limited range of movement, for instance what would happen if she wanted to bring something up to her mouth. A prosthetic of this nature would not be able to do this.
We went back to the drawing board as we wanted to create a prosthetic that would also allow her more independence and freedom of movement. We decided to create a light functional single elbow joint prosthetic arm fitted with a single lock. We extended the locking mechanism lever to her mouth allowing her to lock and unlock the elbow joint at will by manipulating the lever with her mouth.
This innovation however created an unforeseen issue, when Felicity attempted to pick something up, there was no counter support to push against. This meant that if she tried to pick something up in front of her, her body would be pulled forward by the weight of the item she wanted to lift. This prompted us to manufacture a cosmetic right arm that she would be able to use as a counter support that could also be help her with balance when sitting.
This was a massive project for us all as well as being very scary for Felicity. It was quite an emotional journey for her as we fitted the prosthetic arms. Can you imagine being just more than 2 years old and having arms for the first time in your life! She now has a long challenging road to rehabilitation but we know she has the willpower. An adult with the best possible prosthetics and rehab program would take several years to learn how to use them efficiently but Felicity is already excelling.
Instead of sitting back and watching this poor little girl struggle through life, we have decided to step in and help. We have complete and utter confidence in her ability to learn and adapt to using her new appendages. We hope to improve her quality of life while helping her build confidence in herself as she learns to become more independent. She is a very resilient and precious child who we hold dear to our hearts.
The level of adaption that children possess surprises me time and time again! I will follow up with Felicity on a regular basis and hope that she becomes accustomed to her new arms as soon as possible!