Young Georgia siblings play musical instruments with artificial hands
ATLANTA - Christopher and Danielle Fairchild arrive at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta’s Orthopedics clinic for a check-up, of sorts.But it's not exactly what you're thinking. Instead of seeing a doctor or nurse, they're here to see prosthetist Brian Giavedoni, who has asked them to bring their musical instruments, and play for him.
"I have to know what they can't do,” says Giavedoni, watching the siblings play.
So, 8-year old Danielle warms up her viola, which used to be a violin. The difference between the two?
“The viola has one different string that the violin,” Danielle says.
Christopher, who is 10, just started playing cello in December. At first, it was tough.
"I just couldn’t remember the notes or anything,” says Christopher. “Or how I, how to position (my fingers), or how to play."
“It's been more of a struggle for him to push through,” says Dale Fairchild, their mother. “But it's gotten to the point of, 'Oh, I can do this. I can do this.’"
That is a big deal because Dale Fairchild's youngest children of four children, all adopted from China, are both missing all or most of their dominant hands.
When the children expressed an interest in playing an instrument like their older siblings, Dale and her husband encouraged them. Danielle's older sister even created a plastic device to help her hold her bow.
"You know we've always taught them your beliefs create your reality,” says their mother. “Not having a hand, there's nothing to stop you from doing anything."
It’s Brian Giavedoni’s job to create a device that can help his patients adapt to and overcome their physical challenges.
"It's very easy to say, and probably what was said a lot of times to children who have challenges is, 'Why a musical instrument? You don't have a hand,” he says.
But Giavedoni’s thinks, why not encourage the child to play?
"It's all about creativity,” he says. “If someone is that good at playing a musical instrument that, in itself, is like another language. So, you've just allowed that child to move to the next level."
Getting there requires constant fine-tuning. Danielle has a device that holds her bow, but she needs more wrist flexibility.
"Because when you play it, sometimes it doesn't seem right," she says.
Christopher's device works, but Giavedoni says it’s not quite right.
“The design is a little off,” he says. “The weight is a little too heavy."
"You never stop thinking,” he says. “It never stops. You go home and think, ‘Now what didn't I design? What is missing?’' You go through it and go through it and go through it. And usually by the next day you figure it out."
He wants to go back to the drawing board and start over on Danielle’s device. So, Giavedoni creates a mold of her wrist and hand. This will be the beginning of a new, more nimble device.
Her brother's will be lightened.
It's about not just playing better, but living better.
"For us it's being able to let these kids show other kids, and adults that ‘Don't look at me for what I don't have. Look at all the great things I can do,’” says their mother.
"And i think that's the real thing, that people go, ‘Wow! I never thought!"