Confident. Kind. Determined. Always on the go!
Sports-mad Zak, age 7, lives with his mum, dad and older sister in Norfolk. Born missing the below elbow part of his right arm, Zak has always worked out his own way of doing things and is never afraid to give something new a try.
We caught up with mum Louise and dad Jamie, to find out more.
When did you find out about Zak’s limb difference?
We first found out about Zak’s limb difference when he was born. It was quite a shock, as we’d had multiple scans up to that point and it had never been spotted or mentioned before.
It also wasn’t clear why he had a limb difference and what had caused it, so we had all sorts of worries; especially about whether everything else was alright and if he may have developed differently on the inside too. It was very much a rollercoaster of emotions.
At the time, we didn’t know anyone else with a limb difference and it was quite a lonely place to be. But we did some research and came across a charity called Reach, who were great. We went on to meet face-to-face with other families and Zak really benefited from seeing there were other children like him. We also benefited from knowing we weren’t the only ones and that our concerns and questions were all very normal.
Another charity we came across was the Douglas Bader Foundation and it was at one of the charity’s activity weekends that we first heard about the team at Koalaa and decided to look them up.
What was your experience of prosthetics before Koalaa?
When Zak was around 9 months old, he was given his first prosthetic by a limb clinic, which looked like a dolls arm. He learnt to roll a ball with it and it did help while he was developing and learning to move around, but he soon grew out of it.
When he was a little older, the limb centre also provided an attachment to enable him to ride his bike, which he loved.
What did Zak do when he received his prosthetic?
We didn’t know what to expect before the sleeve arrived. Our impression of prosthetics at that point was that they were heavy and could become quite cumbersome. So when the Koalaa prosthetic turned up and it was so light and comfortable for him, it was a very pleasant surprise. Once he worked out how to put it on and off himself, he was away.
What has Zak been using his prosthetic to do?
Zak very much uses his prosthetic when he wants and needs it for specific tasks.
He enjoys playing snooker with it and as a family we also love going out kayaking. It took a bit of trial and error with the straps, but now the rotation of the tool works really well and he loves being able to paddle. Last summer we went out on the water for hours and all really enjoyed it.
Being able to skip has been another big thing for Zak and he amazed us with how well he could do it! He’s also recently started using his prosthetic to ride his bike. The first couple of times he was a little bit cautious but he soon worked it out. And he’s now working on mastering using it with cutlery.
He’s a proper little action man, very active and always on the go. He’s very keen to try new things and is very confident. He’s also taken his prosthetic into school to show his class.
What’s the best thing about Zak’s prosthetic?
Where previously Zak would have needed help with things, he is now far more independent. It’s given him a great opportunity to try new things and go wherever his interests may take him.
We love that the sleeve is so light and the fact that Zak can put it on and off by himself, and also change the attachments himself. Plus, it’s a bonus he can draw his own designs on it and it can go in the wash.
Another benefit is that it doesn’t need to be refitted, which is really good.