Sophia Carlson is 12 years old. She was born without a left arm, but that hasn't held her back.
“That’s just how she was made,” said her mom, Susan Carlson.
Sophia was first fitted with an artificial limb when she was 10 months old. “She uses it to skip, horseback ride, play the ukulele. She just got a new skipping rope attachment this week. We try to get her into as many opportunities as we can.”
This includes cross-country ski, challenging climbing walls, and piano. “She can skate. She is just a rockstar. Nothing stops her. She is very confident in herself.”
In a video posted on YouTube, Sophia’s father, Ryan stated, “Sophia’s future, I think, is very bright… with the support of the War Amps she has all the tools that she needs to succeed.”
Sophia is a member of The War Amps Child Amputee (CHAMP) Program. There is financial assistance for artificial limbs and adaptive devices, as well as peer support.
“Sophia had a myoelectric arm at one point,” Susan Carlson said. “Right now she stretches out replacements almost two years, but as she is growing, it might now be 18 months. She puts it on and takes it off as she feels comfortable or has need.
“The Wars Amps do seminars. She was only nine days old when we took her to her first one. We were living in Vancouver at the time. Just such a great support system for her and us. They break participants into age groups and deal with topics that are common to that cohort. Like dating for the teens.”
“The War Amps is an important part of my life,” Sophia said. “I have been fitted with artificial limbs that allow me to take part in all sorts of activities and be just like any other kid. I’ve also gone to CHAMP seminars where I’ve made many friends and learned to be proud of my amputation.”
“In response to other kids’ curiosity,” Susan said, “we’ve taught her to say ‘This is just how I was born, you have brown hair, I have a special arm.’ She has a little smiley face (two little eyes and a divot-like a smile) on the end of her stump and she uses that to help younger children feel more comfortable around her. She has one brother and two sisters that are younger than her.”
Susan recalls: “I knew at our 20-week ultrasound that she would be born without her left hand. I made a call to The War Amps about a month before she arrived. I had such a good conversation with the contact at their national office that it gave me hope. The young man was in university and played hockey. He, too, was an amputee.
“What to hear a cool story? When we moved into our home in Sudbury, the gentleman who was the previous owner of the house said ‘of course you will be seeing my step-son. He is one of the prosthetists in town, you should look him up’ and Sophia has been going to see Daniel Mead ever since she was four. We were just there.
"They are wonderful and make sure of proper fit, function and comfort. She has a good rapport with all the staff. Sudbury Prosthetic & Orthotic Design is at 1340 Kelly Lake Rd. and when she is getting a new arm, there are many visits, but they are only 10 minutes away.”
Donations to the Key Tag Service provide vital support to amputees across the country including Sophia. This year, The War Amps Key Tag Service is celebrating 75 years of returning lost keys to their owners.
The Key Tag Service launched in 1946 and has returned more than 1.5 million sets of lost keys to their owners. Each key tag has a confidentially coded number. If you lose your keys, the finder can call the toll-free number on the back of the tag or place them in any mailbox in Canada, and The War Amps will return them by courier, free of charge.
The War Amps receives no government grants and its programs are possible through public support of the Key Tag and Address Label Service.
“When I see the key tag, or see a sticker on a bumper, I think of the War Amps support for Sophia and so many others,” said Susan Carlson.
For more information, or to order key tags, visit waramps.ca or call toll-free 1 800 250-3030.
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.
Hugh Kruzel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star