Jump to content
Heather Mills - Amputee Forum

Arms, and hands

Recommended Posts

Hi to one and all

There are a lot of use amputees on this great forum but what about arms, hands & fingers come on you don't seem to have a winj or moan abou your lot, leg amps it's just walking but you think about it hands, finger leg amps don't lift a glass of water or knife & fork, we get our legs and with a lot of luck we walk but I can't imagine what these guys have to do especially kids so very frustrating, I must apologize for my out burst but I just don't see many emails it's mostly legs,I'm a bi-lat newbie and I get very frustrated c'os I can't get aroud as good as I did, it was just a thought

Keep cool my friends

Keith :rolleyes:

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


I can't imagine being an arm or hand amp. Think about it we do everything with our hands and I think it would be a lot harder to cope with a missing had more challenges.

I have had this discussion with my prosthetist a few times and he agreed he'd rather be missing a leg then an arm anyday. Also prosthetics for arms are still not as good as legs but they are getting better.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


This is a recent article about a young surfer who lost her arm and how she is coping. She does quite a bit with her feet to compensate for her missing arm. There is also an article at the USA Today link about the psychologist who is working with her friends and family and another links of more pics of Bethany Hamilton.

Posted 3/19/2004 12:54 AM


Hamilton an inspiration to others after losing arm

By Jill Lieber, USA TODAY

PRINCEVILLE, Hawaii — Bethany Hamilton has always been a compassionate child. But since the 14-year-old Hawaiian surfing sensation lost her left arm in a shark attack on Halloween, her compassion has deepened.

Bethany Hamilton was surfing competitively in January after losing her arm in October.

By Michael Darden, West Hawaii Today

The first sign of a change occurred four days after the incident, when Hamilton learned that fishermen on Kauai's north shore were talking about hunting down the 13-foot, 1,500-pound tiger shark. From her hospital bed, she tearfully insisted the animal not be harmed.

A few hours later, her empathy surfaced again, during a stress debriefing session with Kai Swigart, a psychologist who is legally blind and who specializes in faith-based Christian assistance. Hamilton told him his loss of sight was far worse than her loss of an arm. She offered to donate money being raised to help pay her medical bills to fund an operation to restore his sight.

And in December, Hamilton touched more hearts when, on a media tour of New York City, she suddenly removed her ski jacket and gave it to a homeless girl sitting on a subway grate in Times Square. Wearing only a tank top, Hamilton then canceled a shopping spree, saying she already had too many things.

"Bethany was always very giving, very loving and very kind, but I've never seen anything like this," says her father, Tom. "She's got more wisdom, I guess."

Adds Swigart: "She told me that she had visited heaven and then had come back to be with her family. Anyone who touches heaven has a serenity, a spirit, a presence that transcends normal human experience."

Most lives would be shattered by such a horrifying event. But Hamilton, a member of the North Shore Christian Church, leader of the Hanalei Girls Surf Team and the No. 1-ranked amateur female surfer in Hawaii when she was attacked, remains unshaken.

She opens drink bottles by wedging them between her thighs and twisting open the caps with her right hand. She cuts oranges and peels tangerines by sitting on the floor and grasping the fruit between the soles of her feet. She even wrapped the Christmas gifts she gave to family and friends.

"The list of things she'll have to do differently is long, but the list of things she can't do is very short," says David Rovinsky, her orthopedic surgeon. "The only thing she really can't do is braid her hair."

Hamilton remains oblivious to her physical condition and says she is concentrating on becoming one of the world's best surfers. She is competing beginning this weekend in the National Scholastic Surfing Association (NSSA) Hawaii Regional Championships at Turtle Bay on Oahu.

"We thought we'd be at her bedside, helping her cope, but she's not suffering," her father says. "Somehow God gave Bethany an amazing amount of grace in this. I am in awe. She never says, 'Why me?' "

Says Hamilton: "This was God's plan for my life, and I'm going to go with it." And go with it she has.

Instead of covering up in shirts with sleeves, Hamilton shows off what remains of her left arm, which she has nicknamed "Stumpy," in tank tops and sports bras. To those seeing it for the first time, she says, "Hey, check it out!"

"She's so cool about it," says her best friend, Alana Blanchard, 14, another of Hawaii's top-ranked surfers. "If she was bummed out all the time, we'd be bummed out."

Her 'destiny' to cope with it

Hamilton isn't too fond of her first prosthetic, which is purely for cosmetic purposes and moves only if she manipulates it. She calls it Haole (HOW-lee) Girl, a local colloquialism for a non-Hawaiian, because initially its skin tone was lighter than her tanned skin. It was recently dyed darker.

"You'll see her carrying it over her shoulder like a backpack," says Kim Brady, whose two daughters are surfing buddies of Hamilton's.

"It's a hilarious sight, a real Kodak moment. Bethany has no qualms about her stump. It's as if she's telling everybody, 'Get over it, because I have.' "

Most important, Hamilton has been back in the ocean since Thanksgiving, practicing twice a day and focused on the NSSA national championships in San Clemente, Calif., in June. She was second last summer.

"She wakes me up at 5 a.m. and screams, 'Let's go surfing!' " Alana moans. "She just always wants to surf."

In mid-January, Hamilton finished fifth in the Open Women's division at an NSSA meet on the Big Island. In her next contest, three weeks later on Maui, she failed to make it out of the first heat.

Paddling, Hamilton says, is her biggest challenge. She's using a new, custom-made, 6-foot, 2-inch board, 5 inches longer and slightly thicker than her previous one, making it more buoyant and easier to paddle. Also, Hamilton has attached a strap to the board, 20 inches below the nose. By grabbing this strap, her father says, she is better able to "duck dive" her board under the waves — and pull it through the white water — as she paddles out to the spot where the waves are breaking.

"Bethany is a very driven and inspirational girl," says Rochelle Ballard, one of the world's top female pro surfers, who grew up on Kauai's north shore.

Surprisingly, Hamilton doesn't view herself as strong, driven or courageous. She sees the loss of her arm as her destiny, as a blessing in disguise.

"Bethany sees it as an opportunity that has been handed to her by God," says Roy Hofstetter, a close family friend. "She believes that her arm was taken by the shark so that she would be noticed and that she would help and inspire others."

Adds Hamilton: "I might not be here if I hadn't asked for God's help. I look at everything that's happened as part of God's plan for my life."

Smiling through tough times

Hamilton's life is richer and fuller — and her surfing career more tangible and lucrative — than before the attack.

"She's the most recognized surfer on the planet," says Adam Sharp, vice president of sales and marketing for Rip Curl, a leading surf-wear manufacturer that has sponsored Hamilton for the last five years. About 267,000 have visited her Web site http://www.bethanyhamilton.com .

Within days of the attack, the attention had become so overwhelming that Hamilton's father asked Hofstetter, a part-time Kauai resident and a Los Angeles-based entertainment entrepreneur, to act as the family's agent.

"I've had a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week job ever since," Hofstetter says.

Hamilton has taken four trips to the mainland for weeklong publicity tours and several more are scheduled.

She has appeared on Oprah, 20/20, Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight and Inside Edition. She has been featured in People. Her story has been written up in newspapers in Europe, Asia, South America and Australia.

ABC news anchor Peter Jennings told Hamilton's father that his daughter was the most sought after interview next to Iraqi POW Jessica Lynch.

She's weighing book and movie deals.

She's pondering invitations from Fortune 500 companies to give motivational speeches.

She's sifting through requests for public appearances (at $5,000 a pop) and opportunities for endorsements.

She started the Formula One Grand Prix auto race in Melbourne, Australia, on March 7.

She is scheduled to throw out the first pitch at the Oakland Athletics' season opener April 5, open the Hawaii state legislature in May and surf in a major event in Nicaragua in August.

She'll compete in three pro surfing contests in the USA in the next six months.

She's learning to snowboard, thanks to free trips from resorts and free lessons from top pro riders Tara Dakides and Tina Basich.

And Hofstetter just scored her a more lucrative contract with Rip Curl (which also signed Blanchard) as well as arranged a deal to provide Hamilton her first set of braces, which she'll receive April 7.

"She's already smiling more in interviews," Hofstetter says. "What I'm trying to do is make this 15 minutes of fame into Brand Bethany Hamilton."

Family is her rock

Hamilton's medical bills, rehabilitation and prosthetic care are being paid for by her father's medical insurance, fundraisers in the Hawaiian islands and donations made to her Web site or to any branch of First Hawaiian Bank.

As for the opportunities that have come their way because of the tragedy, and the possibility the family could make money from it, her father says, "We want to take care of Bethany. We want to buy her a piece of property on Kauai. We want her to have money if she decides to go to college or if she'd like to start a business.

"But honestly, her mother and I would just as soon this never happened and live paycheck to paycheck for the rest of our lives."

The Hamiltons are a laid-back, blue-collar family, who have put all the time, energy and what little money they could scrape together into their daughter's competitive surfing aspirations. Tom, 55, is a waiter at the Princeville Hotel. His wife, Cheri, 50, works part-time in catering there.

Hamilton's two brothers have helped fuel her dreams, too. Noah, 22, is her official photographer. Timmy, 17, is her videographer.

They all love to kid her about being born with salt water in her veins. At 5, she entered her first contest; by 9, she was aiming toward a pro career and had signed a sponsorship deal with Rip Curl that covered entry fees and travel expenses and got her free products.

In the seventh grade, the Hamiltons decided to home school their daughter to better meet the demands of her surfing training. This year she is enrolled in eighth grade online, through Myron B. Thompson Academy in Honolulu, which has allowed her to juggle the demands of being "Brand Bethany" — and the wild, wonderful wave she's now riding.

Hanger Prosthetics has designed (and offered as part of a deal) two prosthetic arms for Hamilton. The cost: $100,000. Hanger's Troy Farnsworth says he can develop a waterproof prosthetic that could be worn to surf and give her the ability to paddle. But she'd need a longer stump on which to attach it, he says. Rovinsky has investigated procedures to lengthen her bone but doubts it can be done.

As always, Hamilton remains undaunted. She has told her father that if having only one arm proved detrimental to reaching the top in competitive surfing, then she'd see about playing soccer.

"She's looking forward to the future," says Steve Thompson, the pastor at North Shore Christian Church. "She's asking herself, 'How can I show the world I still have a life, that I enjoy my life and that my life is filled with joy?' She has an underlying trust that God is taking care of her."

USA Today article

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

My husband was born without the use of his left arm and hand, he is paralysed from the elbow down, His fingers are there but not quite developed fully,His mum never took anything whilst pregnant, has never smoked in her life so there is no reason for his condition. He was looking at the prosthetic hands when i went for my fittings for my legs,but as he says, he has never known any different so he prob wouldn`t get used to having a hand that he could use in any way, besides which apart from climbing trees he has never come across anything that has beaten him. He drives,used to fix and service his own cars, plays golf, is a head greenkeeper on a golf course, he changed our boys nappies when he was a baby, bathed him etc....

He did have op years ago to move ligaments to his fingers so he could open and close them but because the nerves don`t work properly he has to conciously think about moving them, this is not like using them naturally without thinking and is very slow, so he didn`t really gain anything. It was one of those decisions at the time (if i don`t will i regret it in years to come) so he tried it, he is no worse off for having a go.

I think if asked he would say his childhood years were bad as other kids poked fun or were frightened of his hand, his adult years have not been so bad as now people don`t really notice so much because he has learnt to make the most of what he has got.

He is brilliant at arm wrestling cos his elbow won`t give at all so know one can take his hand down to the table :) . Funny tho his left arm is a lot stronger than his right arm which obviously he uses most, i don`t really understand this as you would think the muscles used the most would be stronger, i`d be interested to know if anyone has any ideas why this is so.

Bye for now Lesley, Chester, UK

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

It is interesting to me that this posting came up today. Just last night I was talking to an old friend, havent seen in years, who was sharing with me a problem she has been having with her hands. Since the birth of her son, five months ago, her hands have started to curl in, lock up, freeze, be very painful. I listened with very sympathetic ears, esp since she cant truly enjoy her newborn during this time. (holding him is hard, plus she is in a lot of pain).

I had not told her about my amputation surgery before now, had not seen her since, and she became so *inspired*, that I was doing so well, so upbeat, so excited about the future....called me "brave", the whole deal.....but I then turned it around to her and said, "you think *I* am brave but truly I would rather live with this prosthetic leg that works every day and gives me a normal life, than to live without HANDS, like you do!" She had not thought of it that way...but I DO believe that I would rather lose both legs than just one hand...so much fine motor stuff you cant duplicate with electronic fingers. My prosthetist was one of the team that invented the "Utah Hand", one of the newest in electronic hands. But still, it is way behind what a normal hand can do. When prosthetic LEGS are very close to what a normal leg can do, esp BKs. Actually my prosthetic leg is BETTER than my old leg, considering my old leg/foot was deformed! I have great compassion for hand amputees.

Funny side note...I saw a live interview with the surfer girl, bethany. The whole point was to see how well she is adjusting. The interviewer asked her about all the exciting things her new hand could do...she hesitated, then says, "well....it can do this..." and picks up a peice of paper with her good hand, shoves it between the thumb and fingers of her new hand, and closes the fingers slowly around it. I thought to myself that it was not a good 'example" since it seemed like she was saying, "it makes a great paperweight".....she even admitted that in everyday life it is easier to not use it, she just uses it for cosmetics, to fill out her shirt, when she goes to the movie or something. Again, I feel for arm/hand amputees...




Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi all,

My Prosthetist only has one arm and says he was born without the other one - well he has the shoulder and a few inches of upper arm but well above the elbow joint. He's really great and works exceptionally well, using the residual limb to assist with the hand casting of my leg. Amazing to watch him work. He's funny and considerate also and I feel that he has an understanding of what its like to be young and need a prosthetic also.

He has a false one that he sometimes wears - but I've never seen him wear it whilst he works - he says its better without.

I can't imagine what it must be like to lose an arm or hand - at least with a leg we can get good prosthetics and have almost no change.

Sue :rolleyes:

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Apparently NASA is getting the technology with comprest air but it's way off I was watching sky and it was on there very expensive but anything to do with PROSTHETICS is expensive, my heart go's out to anybody with upper body problems so frustrating I am NOT being codescending just a concernd amputee OK

Good luck to all AMPUTEES out there if only we lived in a perfect world, Keith :rolleyes:

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Keith, I couldn't agree with you more about the arms/hands, how awful that must be. Yet in my opinion, I believe the concerns are here for any amputee that wants to bring up their situation on the forum. Only I personally don't recall anyone (could be wrong) on here talking about those particular types of an amputations. Along with sharing how one is coping and their progress since the surgery. I've noticed that most on here are leg amputees, which is no doubt why so much is mentioned on that one particular subject. I would enjoy, as I'm sure many others would, hearing more about all type of amputees. My heart goes out to everyone who is physically challenged in this world today. Yes, and especially the ones that have no arms, I couldn't imagine in my wildest dreams not being able to hold onto your child/spouse or just give someone a big hug. :( So when I start to think of 'poor me', not to often, but every now and then it happens, I think of those situations and how fortunate I for one really am. I feel we're all here to help one another in some way, because no matter what our physical challenges may be......... we all need friends. ;)

Gosh, I think it's good to have an Outburst once in awhile, if not, we'd all burst from within...... not so good :o

Sheila, LBK

Maine- USA

Keep Smiling :)

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

wow keith

i dont think anyone here has "whined" or "moaned" about their situation but, instead, share and look to help and be helped. i think you owe an apology to us all.

maybe those with arm, hand, etc amputees are not here so much because they dont have as hard a time as us leg amputees. i have followed closely the young surfer who lost her arm.dont not think for one second that i dont feel for her and all amputees; however, i see that she is back surfing now, just months after her loss.

my leg amputation 2 yrs ago has been wrought with endless problems, another surgery and i still have trouble walking, i too surfed and have not even been about to walk on sand, yet alone get in water,

so the fact that hard, arm amputees have a hell of a time , too, maybe they are not here looking for help cause they CAN get around without fear or pain, can travel, surf, etc..

if any are having issues i welcome them

again, tho, if u find those of us here whining or moaning, u are totally misssing the point of this site and should move on your way


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think sue may be right, that they just adapt and move on. AND possibly it is hard to type with one/no hands so they avoid online things like this? Just brain storming....if any arm/hand amputees are reading this, please post!




Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


Keith :angry:

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's Keith again I ment to saycompletely the wrong way ok

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

OK, I just found this sight today. I am an Upper left extremity amputee. I really don't think it is that bad loosing a hand. I have been an amputee for 10 years and I am 28 years old. Just like anything else that is life changing, it takes time to get use to.

I really can't tell you how anybody else feels about this subject because i don't know anyone else who is an amputee. I have looked, and there just isn't any around here.

My brother-in-law just got paralized from his waist down this year and I would much rather be in my condition than in his.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


It's really strange but I have also had this conversation with people. I agree with those of you who feel it is worse to lose an arm than a leg. I have thought of this alot as I could of quite easily have lost both in my accident. People do adapt and I actually watched a program with the young girl in the photo and she was amazing. Not just because she has one arm but she has won many competitions against "able bodied" people and beat them. She is proof that you can achieive anything you want if you put your mind to it.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I would like to add my two cents.

11 months ago yesterday, I was involved in an accident, a blast injury which resulted in the loss of all of my left fingers, and my right thumb, middle, and pinky fingers. The remaining index and ring fingers are to the first knuckle.

Reading on here, it does sound like the challenges faced by upper extremity amputees are greatly different from that of lower. Each has their own challenges to overcome, and in each situation the challenges faced are greatly different.

People who say, lose a leg, have to rehabilitate their mobility and learn to get around differently. Due to my accident, I also had a fractured leg, so was not mobile for a long time. In this sense, I can relate.

In my situation, my interests and hobbies relate to things that do not require extreme dexterity. I did not have any expectations from the start, and this was good. Despite only having two short fingers, I've been able to do more than I could have dreamed of. I have an avid interest in computers and programming is a hobby of mine. This disability has not gotten in the way at all of being able to pursue my interests in this field.

When the time came that my hands were not too bandaged up, I was able to start operating a touchpad and typing hunt-and-peck style. As time progressed, and my wounds healed, I started to be able to use both fingers to type, as well as use a regular computer mouse. Another interest/hobby of mine is in electronics, and my disability has not stopped me from designing and producing a product, is only made the task slightly slower and a bit more tedious. Everything is possible, it is just finding new ways to do these things that was the major challenge.

I feel fortunate to have these two fingers; I sometimes thought, why couldn't my thumb be spared, or least one fingernail for when I got an itch. But what I'm finding is that I am capable of most things with just these two. Time is the ultimate healer.

As for other aspects of my life, I'm driving again, able to make it out and enjoy the company of others. Although I'm limited in the meals I can prepare for myself, I'm still able to cook some things. I'm able to do all personal hygiene stuff myself. I can't hold utensils but have all the adaptations I need to use these things.

Back to the discussion of this thread: perhaps the situations in which people lose lower extremities, are more common. I could imagine that amputations resulting from car accidents are typically lower extremity.

As for upper extremity amputees moving on with life quicker, I suppose one could say that recovery is quicker due to being immersed in the recovery environment. That is not to say that someone who's missing a leg does not get practice every time they move around. But being stuck at home, and being the way that I am, I had to find something productive to do and this required doing more than what I was doing (watching TV and reading).

Also, my hobbies allowed me to create assistive devices to make what I was doing on the computer easier. For example, a board with custom programmable switches which I can press with my feet.

I hope I didn't stray too much off-topic here, and hope that this post can be a bit of inspiration to those upper extremity amputees who are browsing this forum and wondering where all others are B)

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Snowboard (I hope you don't mind me calling you that)

I think you're right about the differences between upper and lower amps. Let's face it, they make a ton of different devices for leg amps. There are definitely advances in upper limb prosthesis, but they are slow coming and are quite expensive.

Us leg amps are happy to be able to walk. If we demanded the ability to wiggle our prosthetic toes we would be just out of luck. For upper extremity amps that "wiggle", however achieved, is essential, and it's diffucult to achieve.

I had a counselor in hospital, a middle-aged asian lady, who showed up in a cape and kept her hands in her pockets. When she finished and told me I was in good enough shape, I insisted on shaking her hand. She didn't hesitate, and extended her hook. Then I discovered that she had lost both hands 20 years ago.

I believe a lot of the younger members lost limbs in motorcycle/ATV accidents, but that's just an impression.

Let's see who "pops up". :P

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think, for the most part, leg amps consider themselves "better off" than arm amps... and vice-versa. This is assuming that the arm amp has fingers available in sufficient numbers to provide reasonable dexterity. Snowboard, it sounds like you've found some good ways to work with what you have!

Just about a year ago, I met a friend in person whom I'd known on-line for a while. She is an upper-extremity amp and has been for many years. I was still a very new leg amp. We were both curious as to how the other one dealt with their disability!

The answer was that there was really not a lot to be curious about... within just a few minutes of meeting, it became apparent that niether of us thought of ourselves as "disabled"... mainly because neither of us had any particular problem doing whatever we wanted to do.

As long as we're offered reasonable rehab and training, I think most of us can figure out ways to live a normal, productive life. The actual "disability" rests in the mind, not the limb.

And that's my two cents.........

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree with all that you just said Cheryl. I just wanted to add that my frustrations don't come from my ability to DO anything, they come from how much longer it takes now and all the foreplanning, plus how tired i get doing the smallest thing.

I don't consider myself disabled, just difabled (ie differently abled). :P

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now