Tommy has buzz back!
Clever DIY dad Adam came to the rescue…
As the fuzzy black-andwhite picture came into focus, my heart skipped. It was March 2014, and me and my hubby Adam, 29, couldn’t wait to see our growing baby. ‘Hey there,’ I whispered. In that moment, everything seemed perfect.
But as the sonographer zoomed in on our baby’s right arm, she stopped.
At 12 weeks, we should’ve been able to see a hand, but we couldn’t…
‘Your baby is missing a hand and will likely have a short forearm, too,’ she told us.
She said it was amniotic band syndrome (ABS).
ABS is where stray bands of tissue wrap around the limbs of an unborn baby, cut off blood flow and stop it growing.
‘We don’t know why this happens...’ she trailed off. My heart broke. But it didn’t change how I felt one bit.
No matter what, my baby would be perfect – whether he had all his 10 fingers or not.
Back home, I researched ABS and found a support group on Facebook.
Other mums had posted pics of their little ones without arms or legs and they were having fun, living normal lives. It gave me hope. And when Tommy arrived in August 2014, weighing 6lb, I was overjoyed.
His right arm ended in a stump just below his elbow.
‘But, other than that, he’s healthy,’ the doctor told us.
As he grew up, he’d learn to adapt and use a prosthetic.
He’d need extra love and care – we had that in buckets!
At 6 months old, Tommy started crawling.
‘Come to Mummy,’ I’d coo to
I saw other little ones having fun, living normal lives
him proudly and he’d smile and get really low to the ground.
Then he’d pull himself along, almost like an army crawl. My little soldier! At the same time, he was given an NHS prosthetic.
But it was too bulky and he’d throw a tantrum when we strapped it on him.
Besides, he actually seemed to get along fine without it.
Then, as Tommy started toddling, he learned to rely on his left hand.
And he was still struggling with his prosthetic.
‘It looks like a doll’s arm,’ Adam said. It hung uselessly.
So we went online to look for a practical alternative. And Adam found something. ‘Look at this!’ he cried. On his laptop screen was a group of smiling kids with colourful prosthetic arms.
Scooping up Tommy, he showed him the bright hands.
‘Buzz Lightyear!’ Tommy cried, looking at a green, purple and white arm.
It was just like his favourite character from Toy Story.
We found out that the arms were made by a charity called Team Unlimbited.
And they also released special instructions so that people could make the prosthetics for themselves.
Now all we’d need was to get ourselves a 3D printer…
‘We could make one for Tommy,’ Adam beamed.
Although it sounded really expensive, we knew that the look on Tommy’s face would be priceless! ‘Let’s try,’ I agreed. So, in February last year, we bought a 3D printer online for £800. After that, we downloaded the instructions and Adam set to work. I have to say, it did look complicated. Adam had to enter the correct printer settings and template, then load the plastic. Next, there were seven components that would need to be made. Over the next three days, the printer chugged away. Every so often, Adam would check up on things, or load the next part. Eventually, Tommy’s new arm was ready. And it was in green, purple and white, of course! As Adam strapped it on, Tommy, now 3 years old, broke into the biggest smile. ‘Look, I’m Buzz Lightyear!’ he beamed. Tommy loved his lighter, brighter new arm. Suddenly he was doing things that he’d never been able to do before. Just by bending his arm, the plastic hand would grip whatever Tommy wanted.
But, the first thing Tommy did was shake his dad’s hand.
As I watched the two of them, happy tears fell.
Tommy became a different boy after that.
He was confident and buzzing around, not letting anything stop him.
Adam has now made Tommy another six arms.
Tommy just loves showing them off to his mates.
But the Buzz Lightyear arm is still his favourite.
We’ve had to replace it once after he wore it out!
Now Adam wants to make prosthetic arms for other kids, so that they can be as happy and active as Tommy. He’s our little superstar. And we love him to infinity and beyond!
Adam says, ‘The Buzz Lightyear arm totally changed Tommy’s life, so now I want to adapt the designs and make special arms for other kids. That’s why we set up Limbbo – if I can help other children in the same way, then it’ll be a job well done.’