By Harriet Whitehead
A schoolgirl has received the best present she could wish for this Christmas that will allow her to open her presents for the first time – a new 3D printed arm.
Evie Lambert, 11, was born without a left hand and was delighted when an anonymous donor paid for her to have the new bionic arm fitted.
The youngster is now looking forward to opening her presents on Christmas morning with her ‘Frozen’ themed hero arm while mum Sally, 47, is getting Evie to help wrap presents for the family for the first time ever.
Sally, from Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, said: “She couldn’t have wished for a better Christmas present. If she could have put anything on her wish list it would have been this. The donor is like a real-life Santa.
“Evie shows it off and she says ‘this is me’. It’s this idea of celebrating her difference.
“It gives her functionality. It’s the simple things that she’s enjoying doing now – like being able to hold and open a can of pop.
“She’s tackling things she wouldn’t have done before – little things like brushing her hair, using the hairdryer, opening a lip balm or putting clothes on a hanger. These are things that we take for granted.
“When she does it her face just lights up.
“The most amazing thing will be seeing her open her presents on Christmas day.
“I’m also going to have her help me wrap the Christmas gifts. We’ve always struggled with the sellotape, having 10 fingers rather than five will really help her.
“I’m going to get her doing the ribbons too to really help her motor skills.
“It rotates like a hand and the thumb works with the finger. To me it’s as close as I can imagine to being like a real hand. She’s now got to change her thinking to ‘my arm can help me now’.
“It’s not trying to look like an arm and it’s not trying to hide. It looks bionic. It’s almost saying ‘accept me for who I am’.”
Evie said: “I felt amazed when I got the new arm. It will really help me to do things that I struggled to do before like holding a can of coke and opening and drinking it.
“It feels really comfortable wearing it and the hand opens and closes like a real hand.
“I’d love to get some make-up for Christmas and now I’ll be able to put some mascara on.
“I want to say a big thank you to the donor. It’s helped me do lots of things and is the best Christmas present ever.”
Sally, who works in financial services, and builder husband Duncan, 49, found out at the 20 week scan that Evie didn’t have a left hand.
Although unsure why, they believe she may have had amniotic band syndrome, a condition where the fetus becomes entangled in string like amniotic bands, restricting blood to the limb.
Sally said: “We have had incidents where people have called her names and there have been stares but I think over time she’s built up a resilience to it and it affects me more than it does her.
“She’s got some lovely friends who rally around her and stick up for her and help her at school if she’s struggling with carrying things.
“She deals with it and explains to people that she was born like that. Although sometimes she jokes that it was bitten off by a shark.
“She’s never let it stop her doing anything. She’s a really strong swimmer and has been picking up bronze and silver medals. We’re hoping to get her assessed as a Paralympian.”
Sally, who also has an eight-year-old son Henry, said Evie had tried to use prosthetic hands before but it didn’t work out until now.
She said: “She didn’t take to them, they were big lumps of plastic that sat on her arm and strapped to her shoulder. They just didn’t function very well.
“With the bionic arm it’s opened up so many opportunities for her. You slide it on and push a button then you’re good to go.”
The family heard about Bristol based Open Bionics, who develop low cost bionic arms, at a conference and in September got a call to say a donor had paid for a prosthetic for Evie.
Thanks to a partnership with Disney, Evie was able to pick a Frozen themed arm which was fitted in November.
Sally said: “It’s the kind of thing you think happens to other people. It’s amazing. It’s such an act of kindness – you don’t think these people exist.
“Evie was a big fan of the film when she was growing up. Although she’s a bit old for it now when she was younger she had everything Frozen – cuddly toys, bedspreads. She was Frozen mad so loved the design and the covers are so tasteful. She loves wearing it.”
The cost of the 3D bionic arms varies according to individual clinics but a spokeswoman for Open Bionics said they are ‘vastly cheaper’ than existing advanced alternatives that cost between £20,000 and £60,000 for one hand.