User since: June 2014
Background: congenitally missing her right arm at the elbow
Lives in: Midland, Texas/USA
Occupation: Clinical Coordinator at Allen Orthotics and Prosthetics
Date of Birth: 1962
Born in New York in 1962, Kim Doolan is congenitally missing her right arm at the elbow. Aged just 18 months, she was fitted with her first prosthetic device - a passive arm. At three she was fitted with a body powered hook and elbow device, variations of which she used for the next 30 years.
"Once I had my hook, I never looked back," says Kim. "Grown ups told me that using a passive device was a waste of time as function was the all important factor... and I didn't question them."
In 1990, Kim went to work as a prosthetic technician for a developer of myoelectric prosthetic devices, and, although she worked as a patient model for the company, she was never tempted to opt for a myoelectric solution for herself.
"I'm petite, and the myoelectric devices were a bit too large and heavy for my small frame," she says.
In 1996, Kim moved to Texas, where she became clinical coordinator for Allen Orthotics and Prosthetics. Soon after her move to Texas, Kim was approached by LIVINGSKIN (now part of Touch Bionics), who offered to fit her with a custom-made silicone prosthesis and a part-time work engagement with the company.
"It's very interesting to compare the livingskin device and my hook from a skill versus spontaneity standpoint," explains Kim. "On the one hand, the hook is very functional, so it scores highly from a skill perspective, but it's also quite clumsy and unattractive, so I'm less likely to use it spontaneously. Even though my livingskin device is less functional than the hook because it doesn't allow me to actively grasp objects, the fact that it looks so realistic actually means that I am much more likely to use it without even thinking about it."
A keen gardener, Kim still uses her hook to help her in the garden and also for other household tasks, but her livingskin device is much more functional than she ever thought possible. For example, Kim now uses her livingskin device to stabilize and carry papers and charts at work. She can also pull the lever on the coffee machine, hold plates and and carry grocery bags.
"Another thing I've noticed is that my overall posture improves when I'm wearing my livingskin arm," says Kim. "When I was out in public, I tended to try and hide my hook to avoid unwanted attention, which resulted in poor posture. With livingskin, no one knows that this isn't my real arm, so I always stand up straight when I'm wearing it... it's a confidence thing."
"To be honest, I used to get a lot more space in public when I was wearing my hook than I do when I'm wearing my livingskin!" adds Kim with a chuckle. "But that just shows how much I blend in now - my disability is invisible when I'm wearing it."
Kim continues to work for Allen Orthotics and Prosthetics and in a part-time capacity for Touch Bionics.