An energetic young amputee who loves gymnastics can finally do handstands and cartwheels – after scientists built her a special device to transform her hand.
Taliya Dawkins was born without a left hand after suffering an amniotic amputation while she was still growing in her mother Sabrina’s womb.
The eight-year-old’s limb had become entangled with the cords delivering nutrients to her tiny body, cutting off the blood supply and stopping it forming.
The determined youngster was first fitted with a prosthetic hand when she was just six weeks old but has never let her amputation hold her back.
Now, she has excelled in athletics, acrobatics, swimming and ice skating, as well as her favourite hobby, gymnastics.
But her disability meant she has struggled with some of the more complex movements and positions that require two hands or wrist flexibility.
So now experts have created a device to screw into Taliya’s prosthetic arm that enables her to do handstands and cartwheels for the first time.
Her mother Sabrina, 31, from Gosport, added: ‘She’s absolutely over the moon with it. She hasn’t stopped jumping around since we got it.
‘She has always been very determined but this new prosthetic gives her even more freedom and it’s lovely to see.’
Sabrina, who is also mother to five-year-old Kyla, added: ‘She’s never once let it hold her back and throws herself into sports like athletics and swimming, where she is one of the strongest children.’
Taliya said: ‘I can finally do cartwheels and handstands, which I’ve always struggled with.
‘It makes a huge difference to my balance and I’m so pleased.’
Taliya has always enjoyed gymnastics but the standard prosthetic hand does not have any movement in the hand or wrist, which makes some basic routines impossible.
So staff at the Portsmouth Enablement Centre, which is part of Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, created a flat rubber accessory that screws into her prosthetic arm, giving her a solid and durable platform for gymnastics.
It means the sporty youngster can now do handstands and cartwheels, as well as more complex movements such as bridges and back bends.
Sabrina said: ‘It’s not always easy for Taliya, but she finds a way to do most of the things which everyone else does.
‘She’s come so far and I couldn’t be more proud of her.’
Senior prosthetist Emily Harrison worked closely with Taliya and added: ‘We have a real working relationship, so she will come to me and say “I’d like to be able to do this” and then we’ll put our heads together to try to find a way to enable her to.
‘She said she wanted to be able to do the gymnastics moves that require two hands and the device enables her to do exactly that.’
Beautician Sabrina first discovered there were complications with Taliya’s development at her 20-week scan.
She said: ‘I’d already had my 16-week scan and everything had been fine.
‘So when I went for a more thorough private scan a few weeks later, it didn’t even occur to me that there might be other complications.
‘I presumed they’d checked all the physical things at the first one, so it was a big shock to be suddenly told Taliya didn’t have a left hand.’
Sabrina went to see specialists at Portsmouth Enablement Centre, which provides support and artificial limbs for amputees.
Experts there explained Taliya’s hand had not developed because of an amniotic amputation in the first four to six weeks of her development.
It occurs when the fibrous bands in the amniotic sack, which deliver nutrients to the foetus, become entangled with a growing limb, which cuts off the blood supply and prevent it from growing.
The condition affects about one in every 4,000 pregnancies.
Taliya was given her first artificial limb at six weeks old by staff at the centre and she has since been fitted with about seven more.