Before I became part of the Koalaa team, my involvement with the soft prosthetics company began as a parent of an up-and-coming Koalaa user. When my daughter, Hero, was 2 she became a trialist for Koalaa’s early prototype prosthetic.
Even though she didn’t “need” a prosthetic; I wanted to be ready for the day she might come up against a task she found difficult. I wanted her to be able to experiment and try out new activities, even if they required two hands, just like her peers. I really wasn’t sure what I thought or felt about prosthetics for Hero, the only thing I was certain of was that I didn’t want her to have to go through long waits for hospital appointments only to have a bespoke prosthetic made that she felt she ‘had’ to use because of all the effort it took to get there and all just so that she could dabble in a new activity.
Instead, I wanted her to have a tool in the cupboard, alongside the gloves and coats, that she could grab as and when she needed it. In short, I wanted her to have access to all the activities other kids her age did and for us, that’s exactly what Koalaa does. Her ALX sleeve is there, ready, waiting and covered in felt tip pen. There’s no pressure for her to use it, just as I don’t feel pressured to use a gardening glove when I don’t need it. The Koalaa sleeve is a tool for her, to be grabbed when the need arises.
Above and beyond its convenience, is the comfort and the lightness of the sleeve. For young kids it can feel incredibly alien to have something heavy and rigid on their arms – I know I wouldn’t like it! The ALX sleeve, which Hero was able to put on and off herself using the Velcro straps, was so different to the image we conjured when we thought about prosthetics. Velcro was familiar to her as she had it on shoes and coats, so at once the sleeve was a known entity and being able to loosen and tighten it herself meant that she felt in complete control.
Koalaa’s time in the sun came for us when Hero learnt to ride her bike. After I’d showed her how the sleeve worked, she was off out the door, showing her flashy self-decorated new sleeve to her friends and pedalling around the close.
For us the Koalaa sleeve is an occasional tool, a go-to when she needs a little extra help with
something. How often a prosthetic is needed or used makes no difference to its significance in someone’s life. Hero might only use her sleeve occasionally but on those occasions it’s a game-changer.
As a parent, I loved the laid-back approach of the Koalaa team. I loved the feeling that there was absolutely no pressure from them for Hero to use the prosthetic – if she didn’t need the sleeve that was fantastic! Just like me, they only wanted it to be available to her, they wanted her to have access as and when it was needed. So, when Nate put out the call looking for Limb Buddies, applying was a no-brainer. I adored the Koalaa ethos and was already subscribed to it, not because my daughter needed her prosthetic every day, but because she didn’t, and that was ok. I wanted to help spread the message: Koalaa prosthetics are about fun and functionality, they’re about keeping things simple and they’re about improving accessibility to activities that might have been out of reach before.
Koalaa is all about building a prosthetic that fits into the lifestyle of every unique child and their family. It’s not about changing the world; it’s about changing the little things in life that so many of us take for granted. It’s about seeing other kids using a skipping rope or swinging on monkey bars and knowing that ‘I can do that too!’.
An unexpected bonus of joining Koalaa has been being able to get involved in the design process. There is an ethos that everyone can pitch in ideas and every member of the team brings unique experiences and skillsets to the table. From trialling a new monkey bar sleeve to helping problem solve a tool for an unusual sport or hobby, my job is exciting and diverse. If I could have made up my perfect job, surely this would have been it!
Just as antipodean koalas do, I am all about the embracing. I embrace every element of my role, whether it’s writing blog posts, Zoom calling with families or problem solving. Chatting to parents of new Koalaa users is incredibly rewarding, in part because their excitement is infectious and in part because I’ve been there before myself. I’ve wondered whether exploring the prosthetics route is the right thing for my child, I’ve second-guessed myself and I’ve spent countless hours researching different solutions. I have hopes and expectations about how a prosthetic should work for my child.
As a Limb Buddy I operate with a totally laid-back and no-pressure approach because that’s exactly what I wanted and needed when my Koalaa journey began as a parent, almost five years ago. If you would like to chat about anything then please feel free to give me a text or a WhatsApp message at 07501 866 959 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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