Updated: Oct 27, 2021
One thing I’ve been asked many times over the years is what it was like to grow up with one hand. Questions such as… Was I bullied in school? How did I learn to drive? How did I get a job? What’s it like to go on a date?
Up until very recently, I didn’t know anyone else who had a limb difference like mine, so I’ve had to figure out a lot of these things by myself - and usually the hard way (in typical Sarah style!).
Now that I am almost 30, I’ve gained a fair amount of life experience - from school, university, jobs, friends and boyfriends – and I’ve learnt an awful lot along the way (sometimes with hilarious consequences!).
I thought I’d share some of those experiences here, as an insight for others who may be in a similar situation but also to reassure people that ‘you got this!’ and it will all be ok.
1. The Job Interview
After studying graphic design at university, I started to apply for jobs in the field. At the time, I was pretty shy about my arm and didn’t want it to affect my chances. I wanted them to know me and my work before my arm, so I would hide it.
However, after going for an interview and then being offered the job, it suddenly felt a bit awkward telling them, as it seemed a bit too late. On my first day, I arrived not knowing if anyone knew. I was so nervous I didn’t want to use my keyboard in case anyone noticed and freaked out, so I sat in a total panic.
I finally decided to email my boss, to ask if we could have a chat. Ten minutes later I was standing in their office trying to explain how I only have one hand, with him looking at me very puzzled. He turned to me and said of course he noticed at the interview, but my work and other skills were more important and it was nothing to worry about.
Tip 1 on growing up
Be confident with who you are: Your limb difference makes you you, but it is your personality and hard work that get you places in life.
2. The primary school crush
I was very fortunate at school, as I had my sister and my best friend there and if anyone messed with me, they would have to answer to them! However, I did have the usual head turns, prodding and questioning, which is expected of young, curious children. When I was in primary school, I got a new prosthetic hand - one which was robotic with fingers that moved!! I couldn’t wait to take it in to show everyone.
But this was the early 2000’s and prosthetic arms were either hooks or weighed a ton. This particular one had a massive battery, a skin colour that was three shades darker than mine and basically scared the hell out of everyone who saw it!
I really fancied one of the boys in my class and thought he would be so impressed when he saw it. So, at break time, I went up to him and showed him how it worked. I decided it would be funny to pinch his nose with it, but as the fingers closed the battery ran out and it got STUCK!! He screamed and ran away after fighting it off. (He is now married to one of the other girls from our class!).
Tip 2 on growing up
Be you: Friends and loved ones love you no matter what, so be your silly, beautiful and inspiring self.
3. Playing Pranks
Halloween is one time of year that the limb difference community can really shine! We have a free pass to shock every unaware adult and to terrify any trick or treaters who may come to the door. Me and my dad really came into our own here (and it was so much fun we didn’t just save our creativity for Halloween!).
For example, on a few occasions, I’ve broken a finger or two off my prosthetic hands and thrown them away. But one day, we had the idea to cover the hand and the half-decapitated fingers in fake blood. We then strategically placed it inside the wheelie bin and watched from the window as an absolutely mortified wheelie bin man started looking around very suspiciously.
This year's Halloween is going to be particularly fun now that I have my pet dog. Unknown to him, he has been roped into being the reason I’ll say I lost my hand in the first place. Sorry Woody!
Tip 3 on growing up
Have fun: Your limb difference is part of you so rock it and have fun with it!
Growing up with a limb difference
This is just a small snapshot of some of the experiences I have had growing up with a limb difference and finding my way. When I started writing this, I asked my mum for any stories she remembers and they had me in stitches.
From when my gran was hunting high and low for my other glove and then remembered she only needed one…
To when I would get my grandad to cut up my sausages even though he knew I could do it and just wanted him to help me….
And how I regularly guilted my sister into doing the washing up because I only had one hand, so how could she say no?
All these stories remind me that my family and friends were always there for me and - for better or worse - let me learn in my own unique way!
So, if there’s one thing I’d like people to take away from all this, it’s the reassurance that you’ve got this! It’s all going to be ok and anything is possible if you believe it to be.
Sarah is a Limb Buddy here at Koalaa and provides one-to-one support for families and individuals with limb difference. To find out more, take a look at: Meet our Limb Buddies or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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