NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Having one of your children undergo an amputation isn’t easy for many reasons, the cost of prosthetics being one of them.
An athletic or running prosthesis can run anywhere from $7,000 to 20,000, and many insurance companies won’t cover that cost.
That’s where the Nashville-based non-profit organization Amputee Blade Runners comes in.
Co-founder Dr. Aaron Fitzsimmons said they found many children who were missing limbs were limiting themselves in certain activities.
“They wouldn’t play in P.E. or they would be picked last on the basketball team. So when they limited themselves there, they began limiting themselves in other areas; socially, athletically, academically. We wanted to provide them with a piece of equipment to allow them to excel and gain self-confidence,” Fitzsimmons explained.
Eight-year-old Hannah Dembowczyk was born without her lower right leg, and is one of ABR’s recipients.
Her father Brian has been thrilled with the organization.
“A lot of the other organizations will help you with what I call just a functional limb so the child can get around, but ABR wants them to have a limb that can have them do athletics and gymnastics, and running, and it’s beyond just function. It’s really about excelling, and being completely able to do whatever they want to do. Whatever sport or running, even skipping. Our daughter, the first time she ever skipped was when she got a blade from ABR. She wasn’t able to do that with her other limb. They really want the children to experience the fullness in life,” he told News 2.
Hannah received her first blade a little over a year ago and is now a star in her gymnastics class.
Amputee Blade Runners has given Hannah the gift of independence and activity, and will provide her prosthetics until she turns 18 at no cost to her family, but the organization is about much more than just providing equipment – they put an emphasis on support and family.
Dr. Fitzsimmons points out that “a lot of the girls had different creative interests than some of the young boys, and the robot leg maybe wasn’t as cool as it is to young boys.”
What is cool for young girls is American Girl Dolls. And every little girl wants one that looks exactly like her.
ABR received a doll from American Girl and went to work to make that happen for Hannah.
“We started out very generic with the first one. Then we got to Hannah, we actually did a 3-D printed replication of her prosthetic foot at an 80 times scale for the little doll,” Dr. Fitsimmons said.
Aaron and his team prepped the doll for surgery, performed the amputation, and then scanned her limb to make a customized prosthesis that was very small.
“We even made it pink with the same details as Hannah’s,” he explained.
Hannah’s mom Tara said they were ecstatic.
“Hannah is very timid so she just kind of took it all in, and then once she got home and she was by herself with the doll, she wouldn’t leave it alone,” she said.
Her mother continued, “She was just really in awe and mesmerized. It’s beautiful when a charity and a non-profit organization step up and see the need of a child having a doll that’s just like her to help with that confidence.”
ABR has teamed up with vendors and manufacturers to be able to provide an item to a child for approximately $1,500. Fitzsimmons pointing out, with their partners, it really doesn’t take as much money to help out as you would think.
“It really doesn’t take as much money as you would think typically a few people can get together and donate enough money to cover prosthesis for one person. That’s a pretty big gift at that point. That will last them two to three years.”
Amputee Blade Runners was founded in 2011.
They’re hoping to have an amputee child ambassador like Hannah to help in all 50 states by the end of this year.