Amputee's Special Gift Allows Hope Mills Boy To Lead Active, Playful Life
Posted March 26, 2001 6:00 a.m. EST
HOPE MILLS — A Fayetteville doctor is on a mission. He is helping children who have been through the trauma of an amputation forget they have a disability. He is helping them feel like other kids, but even more special.
At 5 years old, Tommy Hilbourn is as active and playful as any other kid. He loves to run in the front yard until he is almost out of breath. However, unlike most boys his age, Hilbourn had to learn how to be a kid all over again -- a kid with a prosthetic arm.
"Having an arm like this feels great because I feel special," he says.
Four years ago, Hilbourn lost part of his arm in a lawn mower accident. Doctors had to amputate his right arm one inch below his elbow. Christine Smith, Tommy's mother, says it affected her more than it did her son.
"It's been difficult making choices; whether to homeschool him or letting him go to regular school because of how cruel kids can be these days," she says.
"My friends were picking on me. They didn't want to hold my right arm," Hilbourn says.
A teacher at Hilbourn's school introduced Smith to Dr. Chaz Holder of Fayetteville. A triple amputee himself as a result of two accidents, Dr. Holden knows exactly what patients want in prosthetic limbs.
A prosthetic limb with a socket provides no room for growth, but Dr. Holder's model uses a harness, a metal band and durable plastic to provide the same effect at a fraction of the cost.
"If it wasn't for Dr.Holder, my son wouldn't be living a normal life like he does now," Smith says.
Prosthetic limbs can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $250,000 a piece. Dr. Holder's models are 10 percent cheaper and can last up to 15 years.