Freedom to Ride!
Learning to ride a two-wheeled bike is a rite of passage for most kids.
For Ian, who was born in China with an upper limb difference and lived the first six years of his life in an orphanage, the idea of ever riding a bike was far out of reach.
Things changed when Ian was adopted and brought home to western Massachusetts. Within a month, his adoptive parents, Jennifer and Seth, brought Ian to the Shriners Children’s New England upper limb difference clinic. A prosthesis was created for Ian but he rarely used it. Having lived his life without one, he had become accustomed to adapting his activities. Instead, his favorite use for it was to bring it in for show and tell at school. His prosthesis became a tool of empowerment.
“In China, Ian was ostracized, teased, and taught to hide his limb difference,” said Jennifer. “Now, in his eyes, he had a “superpower” tool that enabled him to talk with his peers about his limb difference and for them to gain awareness about physical differences.”
This new confidence in his own abilities led Ian to play baseball, soccer, and basketball. He has even learned to swim and has tried surfing. However, when he was 9 there was one challenge that eluded him. His limb difference made it difficult to balance and steer a bicycle, resulting in lots of painful falls, even with training wheels.
When Ian’s prosthetist at Shriners Children's New England, Brock McConkey, CPO, learned of Ian’s desire to ride a bike, he knew he would find a way to help him. “We want kids to be pumped and excited to try something new. That’s what motivates us!”
For the first time, he rode all the way to the beach while on a family vacation. It gave him a sense of freedom and new level of confidence.
With Ian’s input on design, Brock created a custom bike hand attachment. When he came for a fitting, he brought his bike and helmet and rode through the hallways. “This feels so good!” exclaimed Ian, who in no time was balancing easily and steering with confidence.
“The staff was cheering him on and high-fiving him as he rode by,” said Brock. “He had a smile bigger than the sun, and that’s what it’s all about.”
By summer, the training wheels were off and Ian was off riding independently on two wheels. “For the first time, he rode all the way to the beach while on a family vacation,” said Jennifer. “It gave him a sense of freedom and new level of confidence.”
Ian has since graduated to navigating mountain bike trails. His mom is not surprised. “It’s as if he says, ‘this is what I can do now, what’s next?' With Shriners, we believe anything is possible.”