The awesome expansion of the eNABLE program has made it possible for more and more children to have access to the experience of wearing a prosthetic hand. The media loves it. As someone who used to work in the tv news world, I love the story: A cute child has a chance to flex a hand and hold a ball for the first time. It’s an amazing sight to see. But it’s a great moment. It’s not a moment that changes everything. Journalists tend to overstate the moment.
“A 3-year-old girl’s life is about to change forever thanks to some new technology. She is getting a prosthetic hand, and thanks to 3-D printing, it is cheaper and easier than ever.”
–KCTV, February 9, 2015
As a mom who is the parent of a prosthetic-wearing limb different child, I know the reality. There are moments in my daughter’s life when prosthetics are very cool. Jordan has a great “sports arm” that helps her kayak and ride her bike. Her body-powered elbow arm helps her build balance to her body’s core strength. It also helps her experiment with motions she wouldn’t be able to do any other way. Upper limb prosthetics don’t change everything. They provide tools that can be helpful at times. I know there are times when I have felt an emotional connection to Jordan wearing prosthetics. We’ve had moments when she did something awesome she couldn’t do without her helper arm and it has brought me to tears. But those are moments. Moments Jordan wouldn’t have enjoyed without the help of prosthetics. I guess you could say they changed Jordan’s life. But prosthetics don’t make everything perfect.
I recently learned statistics on the number of children born with limb differences each year from the Centers for Disease Control or Prevention. In the United States, 1500 babies are born each year with upper limb differences. 750 babies are born with lower limb differences. That means, each year, there are new parents going through the process of acceptance of raising a child with a limb difference. We all deal with the acceptance process differently. I worry about a family that sees these reports about 3D printed prosthetics and think they really are the answer to a child’s limb difference. Prosthetics aren’t a solution. Prosthetics aren’t a “fix.” Prosthetics are a tool that can be helpful at times.
I don’t know how to change the ongoing reporting process that glorifies prosthetics. But I would love to open some awareness to the limb different parenting world… I believe in the use of prosthetics as a tool. 3D printed hands and arms are very cool. But they don’t change everything in the life of a limb different child.