A seven-year-old girl is finally able to do more things independently after becoming the youngest person in the UK to be fitted with a bionic arm. Caitlin Hutson was born with only one fully formed hand as a result of a rare congenital condition.
On her undeveloped left arm, she had five shortened fingers at the end but no bones, making basic tasks very difficult for her. Her mum, Maria Hutson, 42 says that up until last year, Caitlin struggled by with a smile but thanks to a recent community fundraiser, her life has now been changed for the better.
The family has raised more than £18,000 for a bionic arm that has now been fitted and Maria says her daughter is already bursting with confidence. She is relishing in her new found capabilities including brushing her own hair, enjoying and ice cream and high-fiving her friends.
Read more: Pensioner believes her phone is ‘haunted’ as its bombarded with messages
Maria, from Wymondham, said: “In the space of 24 hours her confidence has increased so much. Caitlin is strutting around the garden and dancing with it on – as a parent it’s lovely to see. We’re so grateful for everyone who made this dream a reality.”
In 2016, Caitlin was born with an exceptionally rare condition called symbrachydactyly which affects just one in 32,000 births. As a result, the bones in her left arm never formed properly, leaving her with five shortened fingers, a shortened forearm and no hand.
Throughout her early childhood, tasks like using cutlery, holding her dinner tray at school, and brushing her hair have been a struggle. But after researching her condition last year, Maria and Caitlin’s father Terry Hutson, 45, found a high-tech, but very expensive, solution.
They joined a waiting list for a bionic arm for Caitlin, and in December last year were invited up to Open Bionics in Bristol for a consultant’s appointment.
Maria, a swimming teacher and mum-of-two, said: “Last year, we put her name down and to our surprise things moved pretty quickly. We went to Bristol in December, and Open Bionics originally said she needed to grow a bit more before being eligible.
“We also needed to raise the money for the arm itself which cost £13.5k. So we went away and started a Go Fund Me, gathering donations from the local community and putting on fundraisers.
“This year, we’ve held numerous cake sales and a superhero day at Caitlin’s school, and businesses and individuals have shown their support. We’ve been totally overwhelmed by people’s generosity and kindness.”
In total Caitlin’s family raised £18.5k which was enough for the arm to be fitted with an extended warranty. This means it can be replaced as she continues to grow, and the arm is covered for the next five years. Since the fitting, Maria says Caitlin has quickly got used to the feeling of the technology and is loving life with her new ‘hero arm’.
She said: “Small things which people like you and I never even think about are a massive deal to her. For the first time she can use cutlery without struggling and brush her hair like any other seven-year-old girl.
“Watching her eat an ice cream is a joy because up until now she’s always made a right mess. It’s given her the independence she needs for later life which in turn has done her confidence the world of good.
“At the moment, she’d like to be a teacher when she’s older and the arm will help with that. It will also show others disabilities don’t always have to hold you back, and she can do everything everyone else can and more. We’re extremely proud of her.”
Caitlin added: “Life is good with my new arm. Eating is easy and I love being able to brush my hair. I’m excited to go back to school, I think I’ll be getting a lot of high fives from my friends.”
Bionic arms are normally only available for children aged eight and above, but Caitlin discovered she was eligible for her first hand at age six.
Sammy Payne MBE, Co-Founder and COO of Open Bionics, said: “Caitlin will be our youngest user to date. Children use their Hero Arms to ride their bikes, make breakfast, carry their bags to school, and generally perform two-handed tasks.
“Children love the Hero Arm because they can swap its covers and change what their bionic arm looks like. One day they can wear their favourite colour, the next day they can swap it out and be Iron Man. Their bionic arm is completely unique, just like them.”