[Photo from: Sports Illustrated]
A young girl, Hailey Dawson, was born with a little-known disorder called Poland syndrome, whose victims come into the world with missing or underdeveloped muscles on one side of their body. For Hailey, this meant being born without all of her right hand’s fingers. However, thanks to her mother’s convincing request, Hailey was gifted a 3D-printed prosthetic hand by researchers and students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas that allows her to better grasp objects—such as a baseball.
Following and showcasing the success of her prosthetic, Hailey threw the first pitch at a UNLV Rebels baseball game in 2015. And she loved the experience so much that she wanted to do it again, only this time for the Orioles, her family’s favorite team. After this second wish was granted, Hailey expressed her largest one yet: to throw the first pitch for all 30 MLB teams. So far, at least 24 teams have responded saying they’d love nothing more than to have Hailey come to a game and do their part in making that wish come true.
Hailey’s mother, Yong, couldn’t have been more thrilled to watch the researchers and students create Hailey’s first prosthetic hand. “It was inspiring for me to watch the students when she first put that hand on and used it and what it meant to them. Not just what it meant to us, but to them to actually build it for her and for her to actually hold something,” Yong told MASN. Today, Hailey has a total of seven different hands that serve different purposes. And each time she gets a new one, she is excited to get everyone to sign it.
Yong says what was first a triumph in functionality, became a triumph in social confidence. Not only did it help Hailey accomplish everyday activities, but it made her feel more comfortable about her differences from the other kids. “When she puts it on, everybody wants to see it, everybody wants to touch it and everyone wants to be around her,” said Yong.
Hailey was lucky enough to be gifted a 3D prosthetic hand. And while free is always best-case scenario, 3D-printed prosthetics actually aren’t that expensive. The materials used in creating a 3D-printed prosthetic hand can cost as little as $20-$50 and work just as well as their pricier alternatives, say experts. Another plus of these specific prosthetics is their unique design; they’re not meant to look like replacements nor are they supposed to suggest weakness. Instead they serve to represent strength and even superpowers. These prosthetics can be whatever color their subjects prefer and can even be engineered to glow in the dark.
While Hailey’s story is certainly amazing, let’s not forget about the very technology that made it possible. How is this technology able to stand in place of a human body part? How does one handle the prosthetic? Well, in order to close the fingers, the owner simply has to flex his or her wrist, which pulls on cable “tendons.” Then to open the hand back up, they simply move their wrist again. This is the exact process Hailey went through to grasp and throw the baseballs she has so far pitched and how kids are able to accomplish ordinary tasks every single day.
Yong says that the family will likely wait until next baseball season to visit a lot of the teams who have reached out to Hailey, as school has recently started up again. But she also hints at the possibility of making an exception for a World Series Game. Only time will tell if and when Hailey makes it onto the field again, as she continues to chase and fulfill her big dreams.