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news News Friday, October 13, 2017 Sunday, November 12, 2017 12:20 PM - Sunday, November 12, 2017 12:20 PM

Prosthetic allows girl to rock climb

Prosthetic allows girl to rock climb

Rock climbingHelen is a teenager from Missoula, Montana. She loves things like playing guitar, writing, dogs, painting nails, skiing, aerial and even rock climbing. At age 13, this is a pretty impressive list of difficult activities. Before beginning Helen’s story, there is one more thing you should know: Helen is missing part of her right arm.

Helen is a right-side congenital below the elbow amputee, or in her words “missing part of my arm below the elbow since birth.” When she was 12, her underdeveloped fingers started to degenerate and cause her quite a bit of pain. The experts at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Spokane quickly got her into surgery to correct this.

In addition to surgery, Shriners Hospitals has also helped Helen with prostheses throughout her life. Her first prosthesis, which see received when she was 3, was a basic rubber attachment to add length for gymnastics. At age 7, she got her first of two prosthetic devices designed for skiing. All three of these she had made in Missoula, with help from Spokane Shriners Hospital.

Looking back to Helen’s list of hobbies, the specialization of prostheses and the determination and dedication of Helen are both highlighted by one word: climbing. After the Spokane Shriners Hospital expanded its prosthetic services to a more complete lab in 2015, Peter Springs, O & P manager, at Helen’s request, designed a prosthetic limb just for her and just for rock climbing.

Peter, who enjoys rock climbing himself, was excited at the prospect of making a device that will allow a patient of his, like Helen, be able to push herself to try something new. “One of the really cool things about working in prosthetics is it allows me to be creative and in doing that, to open up doors to worlds that might not have been available to kids otherwise,” reflects Springs. “It is especially meaningful to be able to make devices that are for specific activities like rock climbing. To me, it’s that much more impactful because the activity I’m opening up to her, is one in which we share a common passion.”

As for Helen, her tone is optimistic and one of simple gratitude. “Working with my condition will always be a struggle, but the support from Shriners makes a big difference.”

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