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Hopkins House Parents Teach Their Daughters the True Meaning of Christmas

December 10, 2015 12:46 PM
"I want my daughters to know the true meaning of Christmas," explained Jessica To-Alemanji, mother of Eva, 4 years old, and Emma, 6 years old.  Eva is a current Hopkins House James L. & Juliette McNeil Preschool Academy Young Scholar and Emma is an Alumna.
"As a physical therapist, I am familiar with prosthetics and I thought helping a child get such a device would be a great way to teach my children about giving from the heart."
BekaBeka, 13 years old, was born with a partial hand.  In 2008, she was taken to an orthopedic hand specialist to get ideas about increasing the function of her partial hand.  He proposed cutting a deeper wedge between her partial thumb and partial palm to add surface area with which to grab small objects.  The family decided not to make that decision for Beka knowing it was something they could pursue later.  The family also saw a plastic surgeon for the same reason, but he emphasized that Beka will be able to live a full life just the way she is with some adjustments and adaptations.
"He was largely correct," says Beka’s mother.  "Based on this advice, we gave her all the options to try activities and to be creative in coming up with work-arounds for her hand.  We got her an electric can opener, a special cutting board, etc.  Some things she just cannot do, however, which is hard at times."
Now that Beka is older, her family is trying to prepare her to be self-sufficient.  Her mother had her start to cook and do other household activities.  This is where they hit some limits.
"Holding an apple to cut it, holding a yogurt cup to pull the foil lid off, holding the handle of a pot to stir soup, holding the new contact lens container to pull the lid off, all proved difficult," explained Beka’s mom. When Beka’s mother read about the 3-D hand movement, she got excited.  Beka got even more excited and wanted to try one right away, her mother says.  Soon after, her family learned that their insurance company would not cover the latest model myoelectric hand prosthetics.  But through that process, the family was put in touch with Jessica.
"I work with many prosthetists in the area and, suddenly, it came to me that this could be a perfect way to teach my daughters about Christmas – if we could arrange to find and deliver a prosthesis to a child who needs one," explained Jessica.  After speaking with her husband, Nkeng, she shared the idea with her two daughters.  Both Emma, who attends Canterbury Woods Elementary and Eva, who attends the Hopkins House James L. & Juliette McNeil Preschool Academy, were very excited and things were set in motion.
Jessica and her daughters have been working with Professor Eric Bubar of Marymount University and prosthetist Brian Monroe of Hanger, Inc. for the past several weeks.  Their hope is to deliver the 3-D printed prosthetic hand to Beka in time for Christmas.