Christmas has come early for a Sunderland girl when she opened her new ‘robot hand’ which has ‘changed her life’.
A touching video shows the moment little Leah Sweeney received an early present from Team UnLimbited, a charity which designs and builds prosthetic hands free of charge.
When Leah was born her parents, Kelly Doran and Mark Sweeney, were told the fingers on her left hand hadn’t formed properly, called peromelic symbrachydactyly.
Now aged six, the determined youngster has accomplished almost everything she puts her mind to. Leah can ride a bike and even do the monkey bars.
But her new prosthetic hand will mean she is able to carry out simple tasks such as picking up small objects and brushing her hair.
Just over a year ago her parents contacted Team UnLimbited and sent off her measurements to give Leah a new hand.
It’s been a long wait for the youngster but on Friday, while she was off school with a stomach bug, the special parcel arrived.
The youngster can be seen beaming from ear to ear as she opened the parcel to reveal her new hand - which is decorated with rainbows and Disney princess Ariel.
Mum, Kelly Doran, who lives in Castletown, said: “It’s taken a little over a year to make it. They’re doing it for that many people for all over so it takes some time.
“She loves it. Just to be able to pick something up she’s so happy about it.
“It is just amazing to see, it changes her life really.”
It didn’t take long for the Castletown Primary School pupil to work her new hand and is now able to pick up small objects around the house and even brush her hair.
“It’s all done with a 3D printer, there’s so many different parts to them so it’s not just a day job it’s very detailed,” said the 43-year-old mum.
“It’s just brilliant. Team UnLimbited have helped her so much, I can’t thank them enough. It was all very emotional.”
The charity is a collaboration between Drew Murray and Stephen Davies who design, build, fit and deliver 3D printed hands and arms for free.
Leah is an active six-year-old and her parents say there’s very little she can’t do physically.
Leah’s dad, Mark Sweeney said: “She’s a bubbly little girl.
“It’s more of a confidence thing for her than a physical thing. There’s very little she can’t do. She rides a bike, she plays, she can do the monkey bars and she goes to school like everyone else.
“The hand gives her a little bit more confidence and a story to tell.
“I’d like to think someday that she’ll see that she doesn’t even need one.”
The youngster was delighted to show her friends at school her new hand yesterday, which came delivered in a new Princess Ariel backpack.
Mark, 36, added: “Leah has been so excited she’s been waiting for more than a year.
“Trying to explain to a child that it takes time to build and they’re making it for lots of other children too was tough - children have a different level of patience so she was always asking when it was coming.
“It’s an early Christmas present for her.”
Her family have set up a Just Giving page to give back to the charity which will help her in day to day life. To donate visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/leahsweeney2018
HOW CHARITY HELPS PEOPLE ACROSS THE UK
Since 2015, Team UnLimbited has built around 100 devices for people aging between four and 70 years old in the UK.
Stephen Davies, from the charity, said: “Leah requested a rainbow Ariel hand which took me roughly a week to come up with the final theme and then the hand came together pretty quickly after that.
“We try to make it a special occasion for the children, something that makes them feel special and to boost their moral and give them self confidence. It’s all about ability not disability.
“The importance of building our devices to a requested theme makes these arms not a thing, but an actual extension of self.
“It turns children who are quite often picked on for their disability into the cool kid with the iron man or frozen arm. The psychological effect of this is not to be underestimated. I have walked in their shoes, I know how this feels being born with one hand myself.”
People can donate to Team UnLimbited, which is a registered UK charity, by visiting our website www.teamunlimbited.org or www.facebook.com/teamunlimbited