My left side was messed up at birth. My leg was turned inward and I had no elbow, forearm, or hand. The doctor put a cast on my leg up to my hip. I wore it for the first three months of my life. I learned to roll over by tossing the cast across my other leg, which would then flip me over. Thankfully, the casting procedure worked; my leg straightened out and I had no further problems with it.
Mom quickly began the pursuit of a prosthetic arm for me. She learned that a prescription was required to start the process. When she asked the pediatrician for one, she was caught off guard by his response. “No,” he stated. “You need to let Becky get old enough to decide for herself if she wants a prosthesis.”
Mom didn’t agree. She felt getting a prosthesis as an infant would make it easier for me to get used to it and would help me as I developed life skills. So she went to another doctor; surprisingly, he told her the same thing. She went to a third doctor and a fourth doctor and neither would grant her a prescription. It was obvious that the popular opinion in the medical field discouraged infant prostheses. Mom was frustrated, but not willing to give up. She sat down at the kitchen table and wrote a letter to the President of the United States of America!
It was 1961. John F. Kennedy was in office. Luckily for me, Mr. Kennedy was already involved in helping crippled children across the country. He responded to Mom’s letter almost immediately. Now I’m sure that John didn’t type the letter himself, but it came from his administration. They connected Mom with the Crippled Children’s Foundation, who ultimately got her the prescription she needed. On February 5, 1962 (my first birthday), I had an appointment at a prosthetics facility in Grand Rapids, Michigan. One month later, I was wearing my first prosthetic arm.
Today specialists in the field of pediatric prosthetics recommend that children be fitted for prostheses as early as six months old. I’m glad Mom knew what was best for me, even when it differed from the thinking of the medical community. My prosthesis has allowed me to live a normal, high-functioning life with few limitations. And it’s all thanks to Mom and JFK!
“Be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7 (NIV)