first dynamic fitting

Yesterday I went back to Prosthetics in Motion for the first dynamic fitting for my new bionic hand. Last time, we only had a test socket to work with to get the sensor sites right. This time, the arm was fully built and ready to be tried on. In terms of the creative process, this stage is like the first full draft of an essay before you edit and revise it for publication. (Yeah, I totally snuck an English teacher reference in there.) While it was fully made and completely functional, the arm still needed some fine-tuning to make sure that the fit and usability were absolutely perfect.

 

The arm, in all its glory

The arm, in all its glory

The arm itself is gorgeous, although it’ll look very different by the time I take it home in a few weeks. The body of the arm starts off as transparent, with all the wiring inside clearly visible. The thin red strips inside it are the battery packs, and the blue wires connect everything together. It’s pretty crazy how everything fits in the arm that way, isn’t it?

For this fitting, we focused on functionality and fit. So after making sure that the arm was the right length and size for me cosmetically, the prosthetists had me test out the arm again and asked about the fit of the socket. It pinched my small arm in two places when we started, but they stretched out and cut out parts of the socket to make it super comfortable.

We ran into some technical trouble when the thumb kept jamming and the sensors weren’t lining up properly against my small arm, but the guys went to work at diagnosing the problem and ironing out the issue right away. They really are an amazing team of prosthetists (and extra kudos to them for putting up with my terrible jokes and constant nosy questions)!

If all goes according to plan, I have one more dynamic fitting and one final fitting to go until I can take my new bionic hand home. I’m beyond excited!!!

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testing out my new hand

It’s been FOREVER. I know, I know! I’ve taken a very long break from blogging in the past couple years, but I’ve missed it like crazy and now I’m back!

A couple months ago, I decided to look into getting a new prosthesis with more functionality than my passive cosmetic hand. Now I’m about to become a bionic woman over here, and I wanted to make sure I document every moment of the process and provide a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to make and use a new myoelectric hand. I’m getting a hand called the BeBionic, which is made by SteeperUSA. It’s absolutely gorgeous and looks futuristic as heck!

I can’t wait to introduce you to my new cyborg hand so, without further ado, here’s a video of my first fitting with the test socket and sensors.

 

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my life in GIFs: 10 things that cost less than a bionic arm

One question I’m asked frequently (after the inevitable “What happened to your arm?”) is this: “How much does a prosthetic hand cost?” Let’s put it this way – you know when people facetiously claim that something crazy-expensive costs an arm and a leg? Well, that’s pretty accurate. And while I’m not entirely sure how much a leg costs, I can assure you that an artificial hand is a big investment. A Myoelectric arm prosthesis (the kind that lets you open and close the hand) will set you back upwards of $20,000. And the cosmetic hand (read: the one that’s just for show) is not too far behind.

To put this information in perspective, here’s a list of things that my artificial hand most likely costs more than:

1) A car –

Unless you’re driving a Beamer (or something of equal or higher value), chances are good that my robotic limb is more expensive.

2) Breast implants –

I’m not saying I would get them, but I totally could… Let’s just say, I could look like Heidi Montag right now if I’d pursued this route.

3) A year of college –

According to CollegeData.com, a year at an out-of-state public college will set you back $22,203 on average. And if you decide to attend a public university in your state, my arm could pay for about two years. Crazy, huh?

4) A year’s worth of rent – 

Maybe this wouldn’t be so helpful if you’re living in (extremely overpriced) NYC, but you could definitely get a pretty decent apartment anywhere else.

5) A Louis Vuitton bag –

Actually, depending on which bags you pick, you could probably afford a whole designer wardrobe.

6) A small wedding – 

Granted, it wouldn’t be a Kim Kardashian/Kris Humphries affair, but this sum of money could buy a girl with simple tastes her Pinterest dream wedding.

7) A year abroad – 

You know that gap year some kids take between high school and college? My prosthetic could fund that in full and may even last you a few years after that.

8) Diamonds – 

Who cares about having an artificial fourth limb when diamonds are a girl’s best friend?

9) Laptops for the whole family – 

And I’m talking good laptops, something like the MacBook Air.

10) A year’s worth of concerts and music festivals – 

Concert tickets for big-name artists can get pretty expensive. With what it costs to buy my fake hand, you could probably even follow one of them on their next tour (that’s what? 20 concerts across the globe? With front-row seats?).

 

So the next time I casually say that I would “give my left arm” for something on this list, know that I am most likely actually considering it….

 

Peace,

Caitlin

 

(All images/GIFs in this post found via Google.)
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(role) model shaholly ayers

1911_550280571679024_415004854_nShaholly Ayers is the type of girl you can easily picture gracing the cover of any major fashion magazine. She’s tall and tanned with beautiful exotic features and the kind of perfect figure that women spend countless hours at the gym trying to achieve. She’s also very photogenic. So it’s not hard to believe that she’s a model. But Shaholly is up against some pretty tough odds when it comes to the fashion industry. It’s hard enough trying to make it in the modeling world when you have the looks and the talent, but Shaholly has something else that makes her unique in her chosen field: she was born without her right arm below the elbow. But if you think that’s deterred her from pursuing her passion in any way, you couldn’t be more wrong. Shaholly is determined to become the first amputee model to make it in the fashion world.

I recently had a Skype chat with Shaholly and asked her a few questions about her work as a model and her future goals. Read on:

So how did you get started in modeling?

Ever since I was a little kid, I loved posing for the camera and always wanted to be the center of attention. But as I grew up, I really started to feel that there was a stigma with disability in society. People said things to me like, “Oh, you’d be so pretty if you had two arms.” But I’m pretty just the way I am. I grew up thinking that I was perfectly fine and that there was nothing wrong with me. So when other people started saying condescending things, it made me realize that I was different. And now I’m determined to change other people’s notions of what it means to be beautiful. So my interest in modeling goes a lot deeper for me. It’s not all about just looking pretty. It’s a big statement I’m making on behalf of people like myself, who are amputees and who look different.

49526a1d05a86How old were you when you started modeling?

I entered my first modeling competition when I was 12. I remember getting really upset because I got honorable mention but no awards. My mom didn’t let me enroll in any more competitions after that. So I had to wait until I was 18 to really pursue it once I moved out.

Have you been to any any auditions where they commented on your arm or dismissed you because of it?

I tried out for America’s Next Top Model several times. I went the farthest in cycle 13, when they featured the shorter models – I’m 5’7″. I made the top 20, but I was surprised that I made it so far without anyone mentioning my arm. That was very different from my experience at the first modeling agency I went to. It was when I first got to Hawaii and didn’t have a portfolio but thought I’d give it a try. The people at the agency told me there was no way I would ever model, that having one arm meant I would never get signed. The woman said that she didn’t see anybody taking my photograph and that it was never going to happen for me. So that was my first encounter with modeling.

What has been your proudest moment as a model?

After being told by the first agency I visited that I would never be a model because of my arm, I worked hard to build up my portfolio. I went to photographer after photographer and started working with as many people as I could. Some of the photoshoots were bad, but overall I got a lot of good photographs out of the experience. When I went back to that same agency some time later and showed them my portfolio, the woman looked through it and immediately signed me. She said there was no way that she could turn me away after looking at my pictures. It went full circle, so that was really cool.

74410_549563358417412_1613244659_nIn some of your photos, you’re wearing a prosthetic. How do you feel about prosthetics in general? Do you prefer to wear one? 

I think a prosthetic is a tool, and I think it’s a very positive thing. I had one when I was little and used it all the time. But as I grew older and went through puberty, I had a stick-it-to-the-man attitude about it because I wanted to just be myself and not have to conform. So I took it off. But what I soon realized was that sometimes I need it. So I use my prosthetic when I work out and when I’m kayaking or paddleboarding, but it’s not something I use day-to-day. I think it’s also a tool when it comes to modeling. As a model, I’m going to have to fill out shirts and jackets. I don’t think wearing my prosthetic in that situation is negative at all. If anything, I can make it part of my outfit or make it really ornate and cool. If there’s something I want to convey that I can better convey with the prosthesis, then I’ll go with that. Otherwise, no. So I’m fine with both, but I’m more comfortable with it off because I can move better. It just depends on the situation. But whether or not I’m wearing my prosthetic, I don’t let it define me. I am my own person.

What sort of pressure have you, as an amputee model, felt from the industry or from people commenting on your role as a model?

When I first started out, there was a lot of hiding. Photographers often don’t want to show my arm, so I was turning to the side and hiding myself in the beginning because they would work with me only if they didn’t see my arm. But I felt like the industry forced me to be somebody else in order to create an image that wasn’t me and wasn’t the whole truth. I think the media and the society we live in pressure us women to think that we have to be perfect, that just because I’m missing a portion of my arm somehow means that I’m less of a person by beauty standards. That got to me a lot because no matter how much makeup you put on me, I’m still going to be missing my arm. That was difficult for me to deal with, especially when I was younger.

Were you ever teased or picked on because of your arm?

Yes, I was. I actually think that molded me and helped me to become who I am. I mean, it was hard. I grew up in a small town in central Oregon, and children weren’t the only ones who stared and made comments. When it was a kid who did it, I was a lot more understanding. But I never thought adults could be so mean too. In high school I was picked on by both teachers and students. My track coach used to refer to me as the “one-armed freak,” and I was teased quite a lot. I used to wear long-sleeved shirts to hide my arm because I didn’t want people to see it. I did that for about a year until finally – I think it was in seventh grade – I decided that I didn’t care anymore what people thought of me. It made me strong to say, “This is who I am, like it or not.” And I still got crap for it – I still do to this day. You don’t get used to that, but you learn how to deal with it.

4af60fcd226eeThe fashion world is very exclusive and usually sticks to a very rigid ideal of beauty. Do you think the industry will soon open up to diversity and include models with disabilities?

They’d better! I can just see it. Right now, I’m excited because there are so many women out there changing the way people look at disability. There’s Nicole Kelly, who was just crowned Miss Iowa and will compete in the Miss America pageant. And then there’s Sarah Herron who was on The Bachelor. I think that it’s only a matter of time before the fashion world embraces this kind of diversity. I mean, Lady Gaga is so avant garde and out there. Why not take somebody who was actually born that way, with a physical difference, and use her as a model? I honestly feel like this is right around the corner.

Who do you look up to in terms of inspiration?

I really admire the artist P!nk. She’s so strong and ballsy, I love it! She speaks her mind and I think she’s a great role model.

What advice or words of wisdom do you have for young kids with limb differences or disabilities who have big dreams?

Go for your dreams, whatever they are. Whether or not you’re disabled, people like to tell you that you’re never going to accomplish your dreams. Ever. But you have to listen to your inner voice and be true to yourself anyway. All of us have that drive and that voice inside us that says, “No, I’ve got this and I can feel this.” Follow that voice, no matter what your passion is.

I’ve read a lot about an organization called Models of Diversity. What’s your role with them?

This is a really cool story. When I first started modeling, I heard about a show called Britain’s Missing Top Model. I looked up one of the models competing on the show, Debbie van der Putten, and contacted her through a modeling website about wanting to be on the show. That was five years ago. In December of last year, Debbie emailed me and told me that they’d actually been using some of my modeling images to promote the show! It was very coincidental that I met her. And she was involved with Models of Diversity, an organization committed to promoting differences in the fashion world. Angel, who is the founder, wanted to use me as one of their models. So that’s how it all started.

What are you working on right now and what upcoming projects are you excited about?

At the moment, I’m acting in a movie that we’re going to start filming soon. It’s called Olympia Reborn and it’s an independent film, so it should be shown at the different film festivals. I’m very excited about that because I’ve never acted in my life, so it will be something new for me. I’m also hoping that I will be going to the U.K. soon. I’m trying to get more recognition and put some money together so that I can fly over there and get work as a model. I’m  filming a documentary for Models of Diversity right now too. It’s a new campaign for them. And I’m looking at putting together my own prosthetics company in the near future, so I’m trying to get all the people together for that.

 

Follow Shaholly on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

Peace,

Caitlin Michelle

 

 

(I do not own any of the images in this post)
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the coolest prosthetics ever

  Okay, so there’s something I need to confess: I have an obsession with Pinterest.com. It’s got such a wealth of cool ideas and a super simple organization system. What’s not to love?!
  So here I am with another board I put together specifically for this blog. As a one-handed girl, I’ve had my share of experiences with prosthetics (I got my first one when I was only a few months old.) My parents thought it would be a good idea for me to wear one to create a semblance of normality and to make me feel just like every other happy-go-lucky little kid. Back then (and this was twenty years ago),  prosthetics were all about function. In addition to grasping small objects (yes, I even had the awful harness arm with the over-the-shoulder strap that cut painfully into my skin), the artificial arms of the time were known for trying to look like flesh-and-blood limbs. Of course, most of them failed at this attempt. Despite the skin covers with the almost-lifelike hair follicles and the French manicures, the arms’ many screws and rubber texture betrayed what they really were. Honestly, I think I would have gotten fewer stares if I had just walked around without the artificial hand.
  Nowadays, fortunately, the paradigm for prosthetics has changed significantly. People are starting to view artificial limbs as both functional AND fashionable. Gone are the days when a limb deficient person had to try his or her best to hide the lack of an appendage. In this age of constantly advancing science and technology, prosthetics are considered cool. This means that prosthetists are taking liberties in how they design these artificial limbs. You can now find anything from tentacles (see picture on right) to mermaid tails to legs with detachable heels. Pretty awesome, huh?
  So in celebration and appreciation of how far prosthetics have come in the last few decades, check out this Pinterest board featuring some of the coolest artificial limbs available today. If you’re anything like me, you’re already planning outfits you can pair with each of the prosthetic arms….But then again, that might just be my Pinterest addiction talking.
Peace,
Caitlin 🙂
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