‘You’re perfect,’ I whispered to her.
I’d been worried about my bub ever since a 20-week scan revealed she was missing her left hand.
‘It could be the indicator of a genetic abnormality or it could just be that it hasn’t developed properly,’ they explained.
Desperately hoping it wasn’t a sign of anything worse, I also worried about her future.
‘My baby is going to be without her left hand. Would you take her on?’ I asked the swimming teacher who taught my eldest girl, Olivia, three.
‘We’ll treat her exactly the same. Don’t tell her what she can’t do, let her try and figure it out for herself,’ she advised.
Now, as I held Izabella in my arms, I realised I had nothing to worry about.
I knew this wasn’t going to hold her back.
And when doctors confirmed her missing limb wasn’t a sign
of anything else, it was such a huge relief.
When Izabella was three weeks old, I read an article about a man called Mat Bowtell.
He was an engineer who had lost his job and was using his redundancy money to make prosthetic limbs for kids using a 3D printer.
I excitedly typed an email, telling Mat all about Izabella.
‘Please could you make her a hand?’ I asked.
Responding, he said Izabella was too little.
‘Her wrist is too small to utilise the hand at the moment,’ he explained.
He said he’d add her to his list for when she got bigger.
As Izabella grew into a toddler, I marvelled at how she adapted to things.
Whether it was crawling or holding objects, she just found a way to make it work.
Telling Olivia about her little sister’s difference, I explained, ‘Izabella’s left hand didn’t grow in Mummy’s tummy.’
It didn’t faze Olivia, who would happily hold her sister’s hand, whether it was the left or right.
When Izabella started at the same daycare as Olivia, kids would run up to me.
‘I’m trying to get Izabella’s fingers out of your tummy,’ they’d say.
I was confused, until I realised that Olivia was telling everyone that Izabella had left her fingers in her mummy’s tummy!
Izabella continued to grow and tick off milestones like any other kid.
She learned to ride her bike with training wheels and was able to hook her left arm over the handlebars.
But once she outgrew the training wheels, I knew she’d struggle cycling without the ability to grip the left side.
So, when she was three, I wrote to Mat again.
‘We’ll try and do it, but it’s going to be the smallest we’ve ever made and it might not work,’ he warned.
Mat’s team is based in Melbourne, so I sent him Izabella’s measurements.
Luckily, Free 3D Hands is a charity, so we didn’t have to pay for it.
I didn’t want to get her hopes up if it didn’t work, so gently said, ‘We might be getting a hand to help you hold things, what colour do you want?’
‘Rainbow!’ she said excitedly.
‘I’m not sure if they have rainbow, maybe pick just two colours?’ I smiled.
Izabella settled on purple and silver and six months later, it arrived. She tore the box open and looked ecstatic when she saw the hand.
There was also a letter from Mat.
Dear Izabella, we’ve tried hard to make this work for you. Please don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t work.
But amazingly, it did!
To pick something up, Izabella could bend her wrist, which pulls on strings in the fingers to make them flex. Then, flexing the wrist back opens up the fingers, enabling the grip.
Holding up both hands, she grinned, ‘Now I can grrr like a tiger!’
Having the hand has helped Izabella so much with confidence and self-esteem.
She doesn’t wear the hand all the time, but we always carry it around in case she finds something difficult.
Other kids love Izabella’s hand and call her a superhero.
Recently, Mat generously sent out another hand which was rainbow coloured, just like Izabella wanted.
The look on her face was priceless!
I’m so grateful to Mat for his incredible work, it’s amazing that he’s dedicating his time and money to help kids like Izabella.
The kindness of a stranger has changed my girl’s life. ●
To help, visit free3dhands.org.au