Prosthetic hand crafted on 3-D printer may open doors for Denver girl

She dreamed about this moment. But when she woke up, she couldn’t be sure if it was anything more than a dream, until she got to school and her principal assured her that, yes, she would indeed be getting a new right hand.

And so Ana Del Hoyo-Quiñones, a pigtailed, 9-year-old fourth-grader at Denver Center of International Studies at Fairmont, stood wide-eyed in the school library one evening last week as a man entered, placed a small case on a table and opened it.

He presented her a mechanical device — a skeletal, plastic prosthetic that Ana immediately slipped onto her right arm, fitting her own partially formed hand into the palm. Almost intuitively, she flexed her wrist and watched thin cords draw the artificial fingers and thumb together. She picked up a small object from the table.

“I think it’s awesome,” Ana said, “because I can feel how it is having hands with fingers and doing the things I wanted to do.”

It did not bother her in the least that the prosthetic was actually a left hand — the result of a miscommunication that will be fixed easily. In the meantime, Ana playfully shook hands and exchanged high-fives with family and school staff members, grasped any available object and threaded the fingers of her left hand through the plastic digits of the new device.

Overcome by her daughter’s excitement, Alma Quiñones-Mayorga left the room fighting back tears of joy.

She has never fully understood why Ana was born this way, beyond a vague notion that she may have been resting on her right hand in the womb. Ana endured painful surgery at four months to pry her thumb apart from the rest of her partially formed hand. Skin was grafted from her abdomen to complete the process.

Her mother opted out of a follow-up operation to further separate Ana’s tiny fingers rather than have her deal with more pain.

Vanessa Lugo-Acevedo, a bilingual assistant principal at DCIS who translated for the Spanish-speaking mother, also wept as she explained why the experience proved so powerful.

“For her to be able to witness a moment where Ana was able to gain the abilities that most children have to throw a ball, to hold a cup, without seeing Ana experience pain — I think is just overwhelming,” she said.

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