April 16, 2010

Gavin's Nemo Arm

I just came across this adorable video of Gavin wearing his first prosthetic arm when he was 7 months old! (He is 21 months today by the way and I can't believe how much he has grown!)

I have been meaning to write about Gavin's experiences with prosthetic arms (He has had 2 so far). It was not an easy decision for us and I just thought I would talk a bit about that process.

John and I have had a lot of mixed emotions about Gavin wearing a prosthetic arm. He has always used his own arm to hold things, give us hugs, etc. and it seemed strange to have his soft, chubby little arm covered up with a piece of hard plastic. We just love him so much just the way he is. Perfect.

We decided we were open to learning more about prosthetic arms but we also wanted to make sure he continued to learn to use his own arm and adapt in his own way. We also didn't like that a prosthetic would take away his sense of touch on his left arm, which is one of the most important ways for a baby to explore their world. And we didn't want him to ever feel that he needed a prosthetic arm to be "normal."

It was a huge relief to meet the staff at Bloorview Kids Rehab. They have always been SO incredibly friendly and helpful. Its so reassuring to know that we have such an amazing support system right at our finger tips.

We met with Lisa, his occupational therapist, who recommended that it would be a good idea to have him get familiar with wearing one at a young age so it wouldn't be a challenge to get used to later in life if he wanted to wear one. We deiced that we definitely didn't want to deprive him of any opportunity to make life easier for him. We agreed to get him fitted for a passive prosthesis around 6 months old. Lisa suggested that it would be helpful in regards to his balance when he started sitting up (although he actually started sitting up on his own before he got fitted for his arm) and also for crawling (although he ended up crawling better without the prosthetic on). But that was just Gavin, every baby is different.

We returned to Bloorview in January '09 to start the process. Bryan, a prosthetist (a.k.a. guy who makes awesome prosthetic limbs!) made a cast of Gavin's little arm. Tiniest cast I have ever seen! Gavin didn't even seem to notice what was going on so that was done in record time.

Bryan suggested personalizing the arm with something that would make Gavin more interested in it, like a character, interesting pattern etc. That got me thinking... If we were going to try this we might as well make it cute! After a lot of thought, we decided on a Finding Nemo theme since they both have little "fins" :)

We went back the next week so Gavin could try on a clear mold Bryan made from the cast of his arm to make sure it was a good fit and see if any adjustments needed to be made.

After that, we just had to wait for it to be ready. I was so excited to see how it turned out! On Feb. 9, '09 it was finally the big day!

Bryan did an amazing job and we couldn't have been happier with how it turned out! And Gavin LOVED it. He instantly wanted to hold it, talk to it and taste it in true Gavin style. He loved to bang it around and kept hitting himself in the chest with it like a gorilla!

John put it on him for the first time and I felt a little choked up because Gavin seemed so happy and excited and he was holding his stuffed monkey with two hands.

It was a bit of an emotional day but we were left feeling really happy about our decision.

When Gavin's happy, we're happy!


  1. I want to thank you for posting this....we found out that our unborn son will have limb reduction on his right arm...and to see how happy Gavin is and how strong you are, shows us that there is hope and that our baby boy will be ok after all...God bless you and your little boy!

  2. Congrats on your pregnancy! If you ever want to talk more, feel free to email me. Megan_HL20@hotmail.com
    I'm not sure when you found out about your baby's arm but I know it is a very emotional journey. One of the best parts about Gavin's limb difference is all the amazing people that we would not have otherwise met.
    Your son's arm will not define him. It will just be one little part of him that makes him extra special and unique.
    There are a lot of worries and concerns in the beginning when you don't know what to expect but my advice is just to take it one step at a time. Try not to stress about the future. He will be just fine...more than fine!
    God must have known that your son will have enough strength to handle it. He made your baby extra special for a reason. You are very blessed to have been given such a special gift. I wish you all the best on this journey. Thanks for the kind words. Enjoy your pregnancy :)