Ben Fitzgerald spoke to Sadie Cowdry about the challenges she faces having been born without a left forearm - why she turned her back on the ‘awful’ prosthetic limbs offered to her as a child - and how technological developments have given her a renewed sense of hope.
Sadie, 29, was born without a left forearm; and as she was growing up in Pinehurst quickly became frustrated at the attempts to provide a functioning prosthetic limb.
“As a three-year-old I was offered this awful hook prosthetic with a pulley system that went around my right shoulder so that you can open and close the hook. I just hated it and as you can imagine, having a hook at the age of three was not the best way to make friends - unless you want to meet a pirate I suppose!
“There was an alternative to the hook - which was a rubber tipped piece of metal that could be used for typing. I suppose I’ve always been pretty headstrong, I just dug my heels in and refused to wear it.”
Sadie’s complications were compounded by the fact that neurologically she was left handed and struggled with her handwriting - having to complete most of her written work at school using a computer.
She was subsequently offered a ‘bionic’ arm at the age of 9; an electrically operated prosthetic powered by a battery pack worn by the user.
“By this point, my muscle tone on my left side was minimal so it was a real struggle to wear - it was so heavy. The thing was covered in a sort of ‘flesh’ coloured plastic skin which didn’t look great but the worst thing was that it would sometimes get stuck, so you would close it around something and then struggle to let go - I gave up on the whole idea of using a prosthetic arm at the age of nine because of my bad experiences with them.
Sadie, from Shaw, who works as an administration assistant at electronics company Medion, explained that using her right hand to do the job of both hands has begun to take its toll over the years, having developed De Quervain’s Syndrome in her wrist.
“I’m in constant pain and it means that I’m struggling to do many basic tasks - so I’ve decided to look again at getting a prosthetic arm.”
In her research, Sadie found about a highly advanced prosthetic produced by a Bristol based company Open Bionics which makes the world’s first medically certified 3d printed bionic hand. A far cry from the type of prosthetics that Sadie encountered as a child, the Hero Arm is lightweight, has sensitive controls and is available in a range of designs.
“I’m saving up any money I can to try to pay for one of these arms. It would be a dream come true. An arm like this would enable me to do the simple things that most able bodied people take for granted, things like being able to carry two plates at the same time.”
To help meet the £10k price tag, Sadie has set up a Just Giving page to crowdfund the project - already attracting £1,322 (at the time of writing) donated by 33 people.
She is determined to meet the remaining £5k price tag with the help of her husband Rich who works in a warehouse.
Sadie said: “I’ve been amazed by all the really kind comments people have written on this page - and I’ve had a lot of anonymous donations, it’s quite overwhelming. Some people are just wonderful.”
To donate to Sadie’s page, log on to: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/gotanarmoff