A hand prosthetic is helping a young Okotoks swimmer perform to his full potential.
Seven-year-old Frank Ulloa was born with a partial amputation on his right hand, though a grant from the War Amps Child Amputee (CHAMP) program has allowed him to up his game.
Frank has been swimming for pretty much all of his life, but his mother Sarah says this new prosthetic has definitely made a difference.
"As Frank got a little higher through swimming and they were doing more lengths across the pool, he was having a harder time pushing the water evenly, and you could see it as he swam, one arm kind of cut through the water and the other arm pushed as it should... The swim hand makes Frank able to pull the water evenly with both hands around him. It allows for even strokes and gives him a lot of confidence in the water as well, and as he grows, it allows for muscle balance as he learns to swim longer."
The blue waterproof prosthetic is in the shape of a cupped hand and features a picture of Pikachu on the back (a design choice from Frank himself).
Frank has been a CHAMP since he was about six months old, so Sarah thought the organization might be able to help.
"We knew that they had funding for prosthetics, for recreational devices. A lot of people's insurance doesn't cover any recreational device, just medically required ones... We reached out to our local prosthetician and she set us up with some fittings, then we applied for the funding. It makes a huge difference for kids like Frank, otherwise, it really limits what kind of activities you can do if you don't have the ability to make adjustments for each sport."
She says the program covers a pretty wide range of services when it comes to families of children with amputations.
"They have a conference that the kids can attend so they can meet these other kids with amputations, kids with amputations like them that they may have never met before. They also have a matching mother's program, so you can get matched with other parents or families who have kids who have similar amputations so you can bounce ideas off each other. They help with applications to things like the Disability Tax Credit or the Registered Disability Savings Plan."
As for Frank, he's thrilled to be swimming that much faster and to be able to share his story.
"I'm proud to be an amputee and you shouldn't be worried to be different."