Five-year-old Leo White from Greater Manchester is the first child in the world to receive a paediatric leg cover.
Leo was presented with his own Pokémon leg cover at Christmas by Mark Williams, founder of Wales’ Limb-art who invented it.
Leo was born with a left leg 50 per cent shorter than his right leg due to a congenital condition called Proximal Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD) and Fibular Hemimelia (FH) which were picked up at his mum’s 20-week antenatal scan.
The family were put in touch with the Ability Centre in South Manchester, where they met the team who would be working with Leo right through to his adult life.
Various options and processes were discussed with his rehabilitation consultant, surgeon, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and prosthetist. These included leg lengthening, a prosthetic with no surgery, rotationplasty surgery and amputation.
His mum Claire, 33, and dad Jamie, 36, an interactive developer, decided it would be best for Leo to undergo amputation.
The family were put in touch with the charity Steps, the leading charity working for all those whose lives have been affected by childhood lower limb conditions.
Steps has funding for a number of prosthetic covers from Limb-art for children aged between 2-17. Limb-art is a multi award-winning Welsh company which makes ‘the world’s coolest prosthetic leg covers’.
Claire White said: “There was a lot to take in and we took the time to do our own research on the development of prosthetics, reading information on PFFD and amputations on the Steps website and joining groups for PFFD on Facebook to get an understanding of what it would be like for Leo living with the condition and feelings about surgical and non-surgical approaches.
“Leg lengthening was quickly ruled out due to the multiple surgeries and the amount of time that Leo would have to spend in hospital throughout his childhood because of the extreme difference in leg length.
“It mostly came down to our own feelings on the matter. We both felt strongly that Symes amputation would lead to a better-fitting prosthetic and would be more aesthetically pleasing to Leo as he grew and became more self-aware of his appearance.
“The idea of your child having an optional amputation does feel very scary at first, however we have never regretted the decision we made and we are very open with Leo as to why we took that route.
“We had a cast taken of Leo’s little foot when he was six months old as a little keepsake for us and him as obviously he doesn’t remember the surgery which happened when he was 20 months old.
“Looking at him now, we couldn’t be prouder of how he has dealt with his difference, so confident and happy, he is very proud of his ‘robot leg’.
“I looked at limb covers by Limb-Art a year or two ago on Instagram, and I remember thinking back then Leo will definitely need one of these as he gets older.
“When Steps mentioned the possibility of a world first paediatric cover for Leo, I showed him some and we both thought they looked great, and it got us excited about how Leo could ‘dress up’ his prosthetic to make it stand out.
“I was already altering his trousers so that his prosthetic would be exposed, this was so that the trouser leg wouldn’t get caught on the metal bar but also because Leo liked having the colour or pattern that was on his prosthetic socket on show.
“The leg cover means that now Leo’s whole prosthetic limb looks incredible. It is a great way to express himself, his individuality, and a big confidence booster as he grows up. As soon as he was fitted with it, he started dancing in it with his three-year-old brother Ashley.
“Leo enjoyed the process of being measured and he especially liked the choice in images that he could have. Pokémon was the clear favourite and he loved showing it off to his friends at school.
“We feel very honoured as a family that Leo is the first to receive a paediatric limb cover – Steps and Limb-Art have done an amazing job.”
There are an estimated 65 million people globally that live with limb amputations with 1.5 million people undergoing amputations – mostly lower limb – each year. Most amputees need access to prosthetic services and this need is expected to double by 2050.
About 5% of amputees are children and they are traditionally fitted with pole legs and foam leg covers which are replaced regularly as the child grows.
Each cutting edge, Welsh made, Limb-art leg cover is made from Hi Tech Nylon Composite and there are eight different cool and fun leg covers for children to choose from including cartoon characters.
The leg covers give a perfect leg shape under trousers and leggings as well as offering maximum protection for a child’s prosthetic.
Unlike foam prosthetic leg covers, which are traditionally available on the NHS, LIMB-art’s leg covers can be easily sanitised. They are designed for all users of above knee and below knee prostheses.
Mark Williams, founder of Limb-art said: “I lost my own leg in a cycling accident when I was ten years old and it changed my life.
“We have been designing and making adult leg covers for three years and it has always been an ambition of mine to make a version for children.
“Our covers are quick and easy to fit and restore balance to a child’s silhouette. They are often instrumental in raising confidence and self-esteem.
“It is incredibly moving to see the response from a child like Leo when they have been fitted with a bright and colourful LIMB-art leg cover. Instead of being embarrassed by their prosthesis, they are always proud to show it off.
“It makes a huge psychological difference not only for the child, but to the parents too.
“As we say at Limb-art, our aim is to help other amputees – whatever their age – to gain their confidence and stand out and stand proud.”
Loredana Guetg-Wyatt, CEO of Steps, said: “The vibrant new Limb-art covers for children are great fun and will make a brilliant, positive talking point with their friends.
“The new cover is very easy to fit and will allow a child to change it as many times as they wish, without the need to visit a prosthetic centre or having a new leg fitted. At a time where health professionals are battling with resources, we welcome a product that a family can order online and receive directly at home.
“We are confident that the new covers will boost children’s self-esteem and confidence and allow them to wear their legs with pride in front of their family and friends.”
For more information, visit: www.limb-art.com