Updated: Feb 4
Meet the inspiration behind our Kitty tool!
Kitty is five years old and lives with her mum and dad in Leeds.
It was at their 20-week pregnancy scan that Kitty’s mum and dad first learned their daughter may have a limb difference. Born missing her lower left arm, Kitty is a chatty and cheeky little girl who is described as a ‘ray of sunshine’ and living life to the full.
We caught up with mum Liz, to find out more.
How it all began
When we found out about Kitty’s limb difference we were pretty shocked, as we’d never heard of it before. But we joined a charity called Reach, who were really helpful and spoke with other parents who gave us lots of tips and reassurances. We also managed to get a referral to see a clinical psychologist and surgeon before Kitty was born, so we had a lot more knowledge about what to expect.
We did have concerns – about how she’d manage and what things she wouldn’t be able to do – but we knew that our attitude was even more important than hers.
We always let her try things for herself and continue to be amazed at what she can achieve. She can do anything she sets her mind to.
How did you first come across Koalaa?
After joining Reach I became a trustee and served on the board for four years. We discovered Koalaa at one of the charity’s family weekends.
I knew Kitty didn’t want a prosthetic to wear all the time and we are not keen on arms that are for cosmetic purposes only. If she was going to have one, it needed to be something functional and useful, and Koalaa's soft prosthetics seemed to fit the bill.
What were your first impressions?
When Kitty’s prosthetic arrived, we had call a with one of the Koalaa team who gave us a quick tutorial as we didn’t want to break it! But as soon as she explained how it all worked and how the attachments connected, Kitty had it on in seconds.
It was so easy for her to use. One of the first things she tried was riding her bike. She was able to put it on, attach it to her bike and go with no help from us.
Kitty says: “It was exciting and fun, and you can draw on it. I think it’s really cool. My friends thought it was really cool too, when I took it in to school”.
Has Kitty been enabled to do anything she couldn’t before?
While she could ride her bike without it, she always complained that her back hurt afterwards as she was having to twist to rest her little arm on the handle bars. She now has a cool new bike and using her prosthetic, she can balance, steer and coast really well. She’s still a little nervous of falling off but I don’t think it’ll be long until she’s off and pedalling!
She mainly uses it for riding her bike, but we also plan to try it for other activities, like skipping.
What the best thing about Kitty’s prosthetic?
The whole process is so quick and easy. It arrived in just weeks and she was then using it in minutes straight out of the box. There was no waiting around for months for an appointment with a clinic and then for castings and fittings like other prosthetics.
The prosthetic itself is light, soft, really easy to get on and off, and Kitty can adjust it to fit her. We’ve never met two children with exactly the same size or shape of little arm so something that can adapt to work for lots of people is so good. And the fact it is available for younger children too is great.
We also love that it doesn’t look like an arm, and her friends at school thought it was really cool!
Kitty says: “The best three things about it are riding my bike, how it screws on to my little arm and how I can colour it in to make it the only one like mine.”
What would you say to anyone interested in getting a Koalaa soft prosthetic?
Try it! Every child is different, but I think it’s a great starting point and clearly has plenty of functions and the potential for flexibility with specific activities.
I always wanted using a prosthetic to be Kitty’s choice and felt using a cosmetic arm went against everything we’d already told her about her arm. But having a tool that helps you is something she can see the benefit of and she can pick it up whenever she wants it.
Inspiring the Kitty tool
Kitty was thrilled to hear Koalaa had decided to name the tool that helps with bike riding after her. She couldn’t believe her picture was on the internet!
She’d given such helpful, detailed feedback to the Koalaa team and was really pleased that something she’s helped with will help other children too.
Kitty says: “I was ecstatic and proud and excited I had one named after me”.