A schoolgirl who was born missing a hand has received a life-changing bionic arm paid by an anonymous donor.
Evie Lambert, 11, will be able to wrap Christmas presents for the first time this year after having her ‘Frozen’ themed 3D arm fitted.
She was born without her left hand because a condition called amniotic band syndrome, where string-like fibres wrap around limbs in the womb, cutting off blood supply.
Evie, from Huddersfield, hasn’t had good experiences with prosthetics on the NHS, which didn’t allow her enough function.
Her new arm is the ‘closest thing’ to a real hand her family have seen, making simple tasks, such as opening a coke can, easy.
Evie’s family received a call from the company Open Bionics, who make prosthetic arms, saying an anonymous donor had paid for her arm.
Evie Lambert, from Huddersfield, has received a life-changing bionic arm, which is Frozen themed, paid by an anonymous donor, after 11 years of having no luck with NHS prosthetics
Evie was born without a left hand, due to amniotic band syndrome, where string-like fibres wrap around limbs in the womb and cut off blood supply. Pictured, as a young child
The simplest of tasks, such as opening and drinking a can of coke, are exciting for Evie
Evie, who has dreams of becoming a Paralympic swimmer, said it was ‘the best Christmas present ever’.
‘I felt amazed when I got the new arm,’ she said. ‘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.’
Evie’s mother, Sally Lambert, 47, 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. 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.’
Evie’s mother, who works in financial services, and her builder husband Duncan, 49, found out at their 20-week scan that Evie didn’t have a left hand.
Although unsure why, they were told she may have had amniotic band syndrome, which affects around one in 1,200 live births worldwide.
Born with the condition, Evie didn’t let name-calling affect her during her childhood.
Mrs Lambert, 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.’
Evie’s mother, Sally Lambert, 47, said the donor is like ‘a real-life Santa’. She said: ‘She couldn’t have wished for a better Christmas present’ (pictured with her mother)
Evie didn’t take to prosthetics growing up because they were like ‘big lumps of plastic that sat on her arm that didn’t function very well’. Pictured, as a young child
Mrs Lambert, who also has an eight-year-old son Henry, said Evie hadn’t had much luck with prosthetics offered by the NHS in the past, which were basic skin-like gripper arms.
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 had read about Open Bionics, a Bristol-based company who develop bionic arms, on the internet. They went to a conference to find out more.
To their shock, in September, the family got a call to say Evie had been chosen to benefit from a regular anonymous donor.
The companies ‘Hero Arm’ claims to be less than half the price of its nearest competitor, and can be fitted for amputees as young as nine years old.
The company has a partnership with Disney, meaning Evie was able to pick a Frozen themed arm, with past children picking Star Wars BB-8 and Marvel Iron Man.
Now Evie is looking forward to opening her presents on Christmas morning.
Mrs Lambert said: ‘I’m also going to have her help me wrap the Christmas gifts.
‘We’ve always struggled with the sellotape, having ten 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”.
Evie, who has a younger brother, Henry, eight, celebrates her difference and hasn’t allowed bullies to get her down in the past. She hopes to try out mascara for the first time at Christmas
The youngster plans to be a Paralympic swimmer, already with medals in her favourite sport
‘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 has never let her disability hold her back in the past, and her supportive school-friends help her carry her things.
Mrs Lambert said: ‘She’s got some lovely friends who rally around her and stick up for her.
‘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.’
But it’s the little things that Evie is looking forward to most. She said: ‘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.’
Mrs Lambert 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 [Frozen] 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.
It’s reported to cost as little as £5,000 and can be manufactured in just one day, using cutting-edge 3D scanning methods which also ensure the best fit.
WHAT IS AMNIOTIC BAND SYNDROME?
Amniotic Band Syndrome (ABS) occurs when an unborn baby becomes entangled in fibrous string-like tissue that restricts its blood flow.
It affects around one in 1,200 live births worldwide and is believed to be the cause of 178 in 10,000 miscarriages.
If the bands wrap around a limb, it may become amputated in the womb. If across the face, it can cause clefts.
Miscarriages can occur if the band wraps around the umbilical cord.
Up to 31.5 per cent of clubfoots are associated with ABS.
It can also cause webbed digits, nail deformities and stunted bone growth.
ABS occurs randomly and is not genetic or a result of the mothers’ actions.
Surgery can free babies of such bands in the womb.
Procedures can also help to rectify webbed digits, while prosthetics can aid amputations.