Lifenhanced: FEATURED ARTICLE
Adaptive Device Helps Him Ride His Bike
MAX GALLAGHER WAS BORN with a congenital limb deficiency, symbrachydactyly, which affected his left hand and arm and makes his left arm significantly shorter than his right.
Max’s parents learned about their son’s hand during their 20-week ultrasound check-up. “I will never forget the words ‘we found a problem’ coming out of the doctor’s mouth,” says Max’s mother, Kim Gallagher. “The feeling of my heart sinking into my stomach as I tried to process those words is a feeling I’ll never forget.”
For the first four years of Max’s life, he did not use any type of adaptive device, his mother says. “At six months, Max could have qualified for a prosthesis, but we declined any prosthetics or occupational therapy because we didn’t feel he needed it at the time,” Kim says. “We want him to learn to use his hand to the best of his ability. I always said if Max wanted a prosthetic, I would be completely on board, but I didn’t want to force anything on him if he didn’t need or want it.”
That changed last year when Max received his first bicycle. “We noticed that he was hunched over and using his forearm to steer the bike due to the fact that his little hand kept sliding off the handlebar,” Kim says. “He was getting a little frustrated with his arm slipping off, so I mentioned to him we could look into a bike prosthesis.”
That’s all her child needed to hear, Kim says. “I’m not sure Max really understood what I was talking about, but he became so enthusiastic about it, he begged me every day for one.”
In April, when Kim reached out to practitioners at the Ability Prosthetics & Orthotics’ office in Exton, Pennsylvania, on a friend’s recommendation, she had no idea what she needed, only that she wanted some kind of adaptive equipment so Max could safely ride his bike with his grandmother, father and younger brother. “I called Ability with a million questions, and luckily they were able to answer all of them, namely that they would be able to create a device that Max could use to ride his bike.”
Max’s experience with Julie McCulley, MPO, MS, CPO, ATC/L, and Anna Schade, clinical assistant, was “absolutely wonderful,” Kim says. “They were sweet, compassionate and extremely knowledgeable. Julie made Max feel comfortable from the moment she met him. She explained everything she was doing in a manner that Max could understand.”
Max’s new terminal device allows him to grip the handlebars of his bike easier, which allows him to steer and maintain his balance, Julie says.
“Max loved Julie and Anna so much that he never wanted to leave at the end of his appointments.”
Max immediately took to his practitioners, his mother says.
“He loved Julie and Anna so much that he never wanted to leave at the end of his appointments.”
Julie gives Kim credit for being open and forward-thinking when it comes to doing what’s best for her son. “She is an amazing example of a person with the love of an army who educated herself to empower her son to achieve ability and develop independence as a differently-abled, fun-loving little boy,” Julie says.
When Max received his device, he rode his bike up and down the hallways at Ability, and every employee watched, clapped, and cheered, Kim says. “It was so surreal and heartwarming,” she says. “I can’t express how appreciative I am that everyone could give my sweet little boy so much support and self-confidence.”