SPORTS, FITNESS & DANCE

One Pitch at a Time with a Robotic Hand

Amputee

Yong Dawson

How Do I Do This?

When the sonographer looked at our baby girl in the womb and didn't say anything about her right hand, we shoud have known. The doctor then came in and said that there was something wrong with her hand. He wasn't sure what, but we could definitely see it on the ultrasound photos.

Hailey was born in 2010 and we didn't know what to do, what to expect, or how to handle it. I thought about every single thing that I could've done wrong while pregnant, that could've caused this to happen. Hailey was born with a hand with a small palm, small thumb, small pinky, and missing 3 middle fingers. It looked like the hang loose or "shaka" sign from Hawaii. I'm from Hawaii so that's what I compared it to. Our Pediatrician didn't know what she had so he referred us to a Pediatric Orthopedic Doctor. This was all new to us.

While in the hospital, the photographer came by to take Hailey's newborn photos and this was the defining moment for me, as her Mom. It was her first official photo and I did something that made me feel guilty. I covered her hand for the photo. I didn't want people to see her hand. I felt so guilty about it. After that day, I told myself that I would never cover her hand ever again and that we would raise her to never be ashamed of her hand, to be proud, and to be independent. We never looked back from that day on. 

A week later we found out that Hailey has Poland Syndrome and that there wasn't anything I could've done to have caused it. This wasn't hereditary and it just happened. She is missing her pectoral muscle on her right side as well as the limb difference in her hand.

The Robotic Hand

For the first few years of her life, Hailey, adapted and did what every other kid could do. We taught her to try before she asked for help. We taught her to be proud of who she is and it amazed us as she explained what she had to other kids.

When Hailey was 3 I saw a report about a robotic hand made with a 3D printer. I contacted the inventor and we soon realized that she was too young to be able to understand how to control it. I started the process when Hailey was 4 and went through some frustrating moments while trying to find someone to build this robotic hand. I almost gave up and then thought about contacting the local university, UNLV. I emailed the College of Engineering and found two professors who wanted to work with us. 

Hailey received her first "Flexy Hand 2" in October 2014. It was absolutely amazing. She threw out the first pitch for the UNLV Rebel baseball team in March 2015. That grew into a bigger dream for Hailey since her big brother plays baseball and our family loved the Baltimore Orioles. She asked to throw out the first pitch for the Orioles. That dream came to fruition in August 2015. She has no fear. She goes through her day tackling every task and challenge that comes her way. UNLV continues to build her hands. She's thrown out the first pitch for other minor league teams and again for UNLV. She has different themed hands and loves to show it to all of her friends. She played her first season of baseball in 2016, sometimes with her Flexy Hand or sometimes without. 

Our little Hailey inspires us every day. This year she wants to dance Hula, and she's hoping to throw out a first pitch for another major league team. She loves doing it. Most people would be nervous to walk in front of thousands of baseball fans, but not our little girl. She loves it!

Follow Hailey's journey on Instagram: @haileys_hand

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