Sporty. Outgoing. Awesome.
Super sporty Joanie, aged 8, lives with her mum, dad and older sister in South Oxfordshire.
Joanie was born with a congenital limb difference meaning that her left arm did not fully develop before birth but that has never stopped her – whether she’s hitting the waves with her surfboard, playing her dad Alan at tennis or banging out a tune on the guitar!
We caught up with Alan to find out more.
When did you find out about Joanie’s limb difference?
We first found out about Joanie’s limb difference at the second ultrasound. It was a bit of a shock, and we couldn’t help but worry about all the things we thought she wouldn’t be able to do. (Of course, we soon realised there was no need to worry at all!).
Joanie’s always been very strong willed and determined. She had only been out of the womb for a few minutes before she was trying to crawl and get fed by her mum! We could see her personality shining through straight away.
She’s a force of nature and really caring. She’s never been afraid to give new things a go and has always just followed her own path.
Experience with prosthetics
We pretty much decided against prosthetics from the get-go. The ones we saw when Joanie was young were all pretty horrendous and really heavy and uncomfortable. Before Koalaa, the only things she had used were a few tools and adaptations, including something that holds the paper still when she’s writing, and an attachment that helped her ride her scooter like her big sister (which she couldn’t wait to do).
A local Oxford charity called SpecialEffects, who are all about inclusive gaming, also helped us find something that made it easier for her to play on the Wii. They are doing some amazing things!
As well as her Koalaa sleeve, she also now has a bionic arm.
When did you first come across Koalaa?
My dad and my father-in-law both saw a piece about Koalaa on the BBC. The item was talking about something called Project Limitless and how the initiative was providing a new type of soft prosthetic for free for children.
We thought the prosthetics themselves looked really cool and different, so we decided to sign up and a few weeks later her Koalaa sleeve arrived.
What does Joanie use her Koalaa for?
Joanie uses her Koalaa for loads of different things.
The Sarah tool is brilliant for riding her bike and scooter. She also loves her Nicole tool for surfing, occasional cartwheeling and wore it to sports day - where the other children saw it and thought it was really cool too.
She also uses her Koalaa to play the guitar. Before we had it, we used to have to tape the plectrum onto her little arm, so this is much better.
Something we are very excited about is the new tennis tool the team has been working on that’s designed for throwing the ball up into the air to serve. While the ball throwing action is something she is able to do, it’s always been very challenging.
What’s made it even more special is that Joanie got to work with the team at Koalaa on its design. And she was blown away to be told it was going to be named in her honour – the Joanie tool!
We’re now thinking about entering a few little tennis competitions.
What would you say to someone thinking of getting a Koalaa?
Do it. It’s brilliant.
What we like most about it is that it works! The sleeve is so light and easy and can be donned and doffed very quickly. We’re so glad we came across Koalaa and it’s great to be part of the growing #KoalaaCommunity.