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A Full Circle Moment: Keegan Gives Back

Keegan was born missing her right arm below the elbow. She became a patient at Shriners Children’s New England when she was 18 months old. Over the next 20 years, prosthetist Brock McConkey, CPO, and the team in the orthotics and prosthetics department fabricated devices for Keegan, enabling her to participate in competitive skiing, biking, kayaking, gymnastics, golfing, weightlifting and any other activity that piqued her interest. Brock helped make it possible for her to do anything she dreamed.

When Keegan turned 21 and graduated from pediatric care at Shriners Children’s, she stayed in touch with Brock and one day he called her with the opportunity of a lifetime.

Brock was preparing to embark on a volunteer mission to Kenya with the Limb Kind Foundation, a nonprofit that provides free prostheses to children in underdeveloped and impoverished countries. He wanted to know if Keegan was interested in coming too. She would serve as a mentor to the children receiving prosthetic devices for the first time. “I thought it would be so cool to work side-by-side with a former patient of mine to help inspire kids to do amazing things,’” said Brock.

Remembering the numerous times throughout her childhood when a prosthetic device changed her life, Keegan jumped at the chance to give back. “I was fortunate to receive prostheses as I grew and to attend camps that allowed me to learn how to use them for different activities, so to be able to help other children in this way was an incredible opportunity.”

*All photos © Matilde Simas

Being a mentor and being able to show these children what is possible with properly fitted prosthetic devices was truly an honor. It’s impossible to describe.
Keegan, former patient, New England

While in Kenya, Keegan answered questions from patients and their families, demonstrated how to use upper- and lower-limb prosthetic devices, and provided encouragement to help each child build confidence to use the new limb they had received. During the weeklong trip, 53 children were fitted with upper and lower limb devices. “Being a mentor and being able to show these children what is possible with properly fitted prosthetic devices was truly an honor. It’s impossible to describe,” explained Keegan.

For Brock, Keegan’s presence on this trip was inspiring. “Keegan brings such a positive can-do attitude everywhere she goes. She made a lasting impression on the kids in Kenya, showing them they can do great things in this world. As Keegan’s prosthetist, I was so proud to share this experience with her,” said Brock.

One of the most memorable parts of the trip for Keegan was seeing a little girl named Esther try on her new prosthetic arm for the first time – a moment that Keegan remembers vividly from her own childhood. She watched in awe as Esther opened and closed the hook attachment at the end of her arm and then beamed with pride when she learned to write her name using it. “Throughout my childhood, I had the desire to be right-handed and to be able to hold things with that hand, and a prosthetic device made that possible for me. It was an honor to witness that become a reality for Esther as well. She was a natural, and in that moment I knew she would be okay and would be able to use this arm to benefit her life for a long time.”

For Keegan, the trip to Kenya put into perspective how lucky she was to have access to care close to home at Shriners Children’s. Brock was always just a text away to request an impromptu appointment to adjust her current device, or to provide the same support and encouragement she was able to offer the children and families in Kenya.

“Being able to witness Brock make limbs for children who otherwise may never have had the opportunity was nothing short of amazing,” she said. “He had done this for me my entire life, so working alongside him was truly a full circle moment that I will remember forever.”

The Trip of a Lifetime

As a mentor and resource to children and families in Kenya, Keegan offered support, encouragement and prostheses demonstration to help each patient feel comfortable and confident.

Keegan and prosthetic patient playing

Outdoor play gave Keegan a unique opportunity to learn about each child and their goals, all while having fun and team building (Matilde Simas).

Brock, orthotic patient, Keegan

Keegan observes Brock McConkey as he makes an adjustment to a child's prosthesis (Matilde Simas).

Keegan with three adults with prosthetics

Keegan and her fellow mentors played an integral role by answering questions, providing demonstrations and offering encouragement to each child as they received their very first prosthesis (Matilde Simas).

Keegan playing with patient

Fun in the sun! Engaging in a variety of activities and games allowed Keegan and the other mentors to build trust and connection with each child and their family, who varied in age from toddler to teen (Matilde Simas).

Keegan laughing with prosthetic patient

Keegan formed a special bond with Esther, who received her first prosthetic arm. Mentoring Esther was incredibly meaningful and memorable for Keegan, as she reminded her of herself at a young age (Matilde Simas).

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