RINCON, Ga. (WSAV) — A generous gift from an Ohio-based foundation has helped change one Effingham County girl’s life forever.
Aubrey Stuart is a 10-year-old fifth grader who was born with only half of her right arm.
Her stepmother, Marie Stuart, says while Aubrey was still in the womb, the amniotic band wrapped around her arm.
“[It] came across and took it off,” Stuart told WSAV NOW. “They didn’t even notice it until after she was born.”
It’s been all Aubrey has ever known, but it hasn’t slowed her down one bit.
Like many kids, the Rincon Elementary School student loves being active in sports like gymnastics and cheerleading.
“She did play basketball last year and she was one of the best players, learned how to shoot the ball with her hands,” Stuart said. “She was a very good player.”
Aubrey says one of the drawbacks has been getting teased by her peers.
“It made me sad and I didn’t like that,” Aubrey told WSAV NOW. “I just thought that if I got an arm, then I could possibly have a different life and I wouldn’t be judged that much.”
Aubrey’s family began searching online for opportunities to get her a prosthetic arm.
The Hands of Hope Foundation, which provides free customized prosthetic limbs to children, reached out to assist the Stuart family.
“Each arm cost us about $20 to $50 to make, depending on how much detail we put into it,” said Connor Hart, founder of the Hands of Hope Foundation. “We get a lot of donors, which allows us to provide our services free of charge.”
The original plan was to have a 3D-printed arm delivered to Aubrey by her birthday on May 19, but there were delays due to COVID-19.
Instead, Aubrey’s family surprised her with the big reveal on Sept. 6 at a family gathering.
Once she opened the box and saw what was inside, Aubrey was speechless.
“I just feel like I’m blessed,” Aubrey said of her prosthetic arm.
It allows her to do what she’s never before been able to do with her partial right limb, including picking up items like cups, giving high fives and holding her left hand.
“A lot of times, these kids have been bullied at school, people made fun of them for their looks and they go through a lot,” said Hart, who founded the Hands of Hope Foundation in 2018. He met Aubrey virtually to introduce her to the brand-new arm. “These prosthetic arms mean a lot to the child.”
Aubrey says instead of getting teased, she’s now receiving a different kind of attention from her classmates.
“Every time I go to school, people just turn around staring at me constantly,” she said with a smile. “They were saying, like, ‘wow, that’s so cool,’ and I hadn’t had so much attention in such a long time.”
Her stepmother feels the new arm will give Aubrey more confidence as she goes forward in life.
“It gives her hope that she can touch something with both hands,” Stuart said.
Aubrey’s current prosthetic arm is temporary, allowing her to see whether or not it’s a good fit, according to Hart.
His foundation is aiming to have a few permanent options made for Aubrey by Christmas.
“I know she’s also wanting one that is skin-colored, because one of the main things that she says she wants to do is to be able to go to the salon and get her nails on both of her hands done,” Hart said.