Angelique Shröder, the Boughton girl who made medical history last year when she became the first South African to have one of her toes grafted to work as a finger, has now got a 3D-printed hand to help her hold objects.
The five-year-old loves cycling, dancing, colouring and playing with dolls, and is ever-eager to help her mother with housework and her father in his workshop.
Angelique last made history after a successful lengthy operation at a Cape Town hospital, where a toe from her right foot was grafted to her right hand.
She was born without most of her left arm and without a right hand because of a condition called symbrachydactyly, which causes limb abnormalities.
Doctors had previously taken bones from both her feet and grafted a ring finger, middle finger and thumb for her right hand.
A four-year-old Pietermaritzburg girl has become the first child in South Africa to have one of her toes transplanted to do duty as a finger. Angelique Schröder was born without a right hand and most of her left arm - a condition called symbrachydactyly, which causes limb abnormalities.
This May, Angelique went under the knife again where doctors shortened the tendons of the transplanted toe after Angelique had trouble bending it fully.
Her parents, Dirk and Anna, told The Witness more than a year after the success of her initial operation, the new operations have renewed their hopes for their daughter. But they’ve also spoken about the new challenges they face, including Angelique’s slow realisation that she isn’t like her peers, and how that may knock her confidence as she matures.
Dirk Shröder said an architect friend had designed and 3D-printed a contraption which fits on Angelique’s left hand.
As the girl bends her arm, a string system in the hand tightens, allowing her to grip objects.
“It was quite an emotional time for us to see her hold something for the first time,” Shröder said.
"Whenever she sees people with artificial limbs she gets scared and runs away from them"
Shröder said the family were noticing Angelique beginning to understand that she was different from other children, and said they were bracing themselves for challenges as the girl grows up. “She comes and asks us if she’ll ever get a proper hand. Whenever she sees people with artificial limbs she gets scared and runs away from them. The doctors explained that she will go through this,” he said.
“We spoke to a woman who has only one arm to get a sense of what we can expect, and she told us that people will mock her and she may fall into a depression. She may feel she’s not good enough. So we’re getting prepared for that.”
Shröder said the family tries to give Angelique as much positive reinforcement as possible. “We tell her that God made her different. The doctors advised us not to lie to her that she’ll get a hand in the future, but maybe medicine will advance in the future.”
'She’s a fighter'
Her mother, Anna, said Angelique often found she couldn’t do a lot of things when trying to help her with housework and the like.
“Sometimes I quietly go to another room and cry.
“But she’s a child who always tries first before asking for help. Even the school says she always tries. She’s a fighter, and she is able to change her clothes and she tries to do her hair and tidy up her room.”
The Shröders said Angelique was slowly becoming dexterous with her hand, and is able to colour and draw. She uses compensation techniques to make up for her lack of hands, like squeezing a felt pen lid where her arm bends and pulling it off with her hand.
They have begun teaching her how to swim and master doing basic everyday activities.
“It’s been a hard road,” Dirk said. “We get tears in our eyes when we see other children doing things that she can’t, but she’s getting there.”
Angelique is in Grade R next year.