Monday, June 2, 2014

A New Hand For Anny

My Anny was born six years ago this month. We didn't know until she arrived that she would be our sweet princess, we like those kind of surprises in the delivery room. She has three older sisters who all originally were going to be named Anny but when they arrived, none of them seemed right for the name. Who knew we would end up having our seventh child actually arrive and fit the name perfectly! But that is another story. This one is about Anny's hand.

Anny just over a year old
At the halfway point of my pregnancy, I went for a routine ultrasound. As I drove down the freeway with the radio off, I did what I normally do when I'm alone and have a little conversation with my Heavenly Father. I thanked him for this new spirit that was coming to our family and asked him for the strength to do this again after a five year break. I was feeling overwhelmed and nervous. I wanted to know why I felt so much anxiety even though this was my seventh go around. I drove down the road in silence and was overcome with a feeling of peace. It washed over me and I just felt calm and ready to do anything.
Anny about 20 months old
Photo Courtesy: Kim Skinner Photography

I arrived at the appointment and met Ben who had come straight from work. We went into the ultrasound appointment without a worry. Shortly into the scan, they discovered the possibility that our little one might not be "perfect". To this point I had always said it didn't matter what as long as they had 10 fingers and 10 toes. That day, our idea of perfect was forever altered.

At first they thought she had her hand in a tight fist and wouldn't open. They rescheduled us for a few weeks later when the baby would be larger and we could get a better picture of what was going on. Unfortunately, the next ultrasound revealed what we had feared and that she indeed was missing three fingers and most of her thumb and pinky on the right hand. My mind was spinning, how will she throw a ball? How will she shake hands? How will she dance? How will she...?

 We had waited to tell the kids because we didn't want them to be worried but when it became a reality, we decided to sit down with them and tell them the news. I cried as we sat there and told them what we knew. They asked a few questions and I brought up a few talking points. I thought they would be upset or overly emotional or not know what to think about it but basically they said, "Ok" and went about their business. 

This experience taught me again that I needed to feel peace about this. Besides, who better than our family to raise a happy and confident child and give her the opportunity to excel at whatever she wants than us?!?! Vance said, "even if she can't throw a ball, she could always run cross country!" We got a good laugh over the reality of his statement. I was thinking about all the things she might not be able to do instead of focusing on what she could do.

After that, I did lots of research. I spoke to anyone I saw with a limb difference and asked them how they felt about it and told them about our new baby coming. I cried, I prayed, I learned what I could so I could best support this new adventure in our life.

We learned early on that she is naturally right handed. She almost always puts the fork or the pencil in her right hand and attempts to use it properly. When she feels like she can't, she switches to the left. There has been nothing she has tried to do that has been a failure; we work around it. She dances, she plays sports with her siblings, she is a cheerleader, she can write, she is even taking piano lessons! There is nothing this girl can't do.

Anny and her pink fingers June 2014
But, I recently saw a post about a new type of prosthetic made with a 3D printer. I saw plastic hands being made for pennies on the dollar of a real prosthetic. We waited until she was older so she would realize that she doesn't "need" fingers to get along. We just think it is pretty cool. It allows her to do things with her right hand that she may not have been able to do before.

I was apprehensive about sending her to kindergarten for more than one reason. She has been pretty sheltered at home and her missing fingers have never been much of a topic of discussion. I admit that I'm a little afraid to send her into the "world" because I know how children are and I never want her to feel like she is somehow less in the eyes of her peers because of her limb difference. So, I sent out a Facebook plea to my wonderful friends in search of someone with a 3D printer. I had seen a video of a boy whose father made him a hand and I wanted one for Anny. I wanted something she can wear to school that would make her feel special more than she feels different. (Please do not confuse this with her self confidence)

Anny and Brandon Henrie
I had several friends contact the technology teachers at their high school and one even offered us their assistance. I wished that our high school had a 3D printer but they don't. I kept that idea on the back burner with the hope that someone closer to me would be able to help. I'm glad I waited. A friend in my very own neighborhood informed me that her husband has a 3D printer he uses for work. They live less than a mile from our home!

We went over and had an initial visit with Brandon and he looked at her hand, traced it on paper and then told us what he thought he could do. We left that day anticipating her first new hand. What a joy it was a few weeks later when he called and asked her to come to a fitting. She played with it a few minutes while
Brandon and I discussed what we thought he could do to improve it to make it fit better and work more efficiently.

Long story short, a few short months and three visits later, Anny has pink fingers! She is delighted to be able to wave, shake hands, pick up a tennis ball, and more! It will take a little bit of getting used to it, but I think it is already a hit with those who know her. She is excited to show it off. We are so appreciate of the Henrie family and the time devoted to us while they had a myriad of other things to attend to at the same time. They are truly a selfless family and we appreciate this more than words can express.

This video shows the very first thing Anny picked up with her new fingers. This is just the beginning...


  1. Beautiful story! What a great friend!

  2. That's so amazing!! PINK fingers!! I love it!

  3. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. I love technology. Anny is adorable. She has magnificent parents, too. hugs~

  4. Technology is so amazing sometimes! I love that Annie has a cool looking bionic hand and I love her supportive and caring family even more!

  5. Awesome! Do the fingers move?

  6. Gosh, what a strong kid! Such an inspiring story. Thanks, my Super Mom friend, for sharing this. You have created such an amazingly supportive environment for your clan. Hugs to you all from Dr S. :)

  7. That smile of hers says it all!