Aaron’s ABS Story

My name is Aaron Hill and I was born with a partially developed left hand. It wasn’t until a friend recently sent me a link on ABS, that I even realized that this could have been a potential cause of my missing left hand. Soon after I was born, my parents were approached with the possibility for a radical surgery (at least it was leading edge in 1982) to be done on my partially developed left hand. The doctor proposed to remove three of my toes and using the bone, ligaments, skin, and muscle to create a three fingered appendage where my left hand would be. My parents, being very strong Christians, prayed and felt that God brought them to the Bible verses John 9:2-3 where Jesus’ disciples encountered a blind man on the street and asked “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” After reading this, my parents felt that God didn’t need some surgeon to help me in life, but that God had plans to use my physical challenge for Him. And that was the beginning of my journey of challenges and victories.

Now 23 years old and married, I look back on all the things I’ve done and accomplished and I feel that I never really felt handicapped. No matter who we are, we all face challenges as we learn new things, just for me, I had to adapt how I learned new things to having one hand. Although I was one of the youngest kids to ever be fitted with a prosthetic, I never let it stop me. I originally was fitted with a little fiberglass sleeve with a rubber glove on the end. This was my prosthetic from about 6-8 months old up to 2 years old. My parents said it taught me not to rub my eyes with my left hand very quickly. However, I got into a bit of trouble shortly after being fitted with my new metal hook prosthesis. On my mom’s birthday, I ran up to give her a hug and hit her in the eye on accident with the metal hook of my prosthetic. It blackened her eye almost immediately and my dad still jokes that he got so many dirty looks that night as he took my mom out to dinner, black eye and all, for her birthday. J

Even before I started elementary school, I loved to be active. I would climb trees, ride my bike, ride my skateboard, play baseball, basketball, football, play at the park, and all the other things little boys do. My mom said that she would sometimes see me struggle and want to run in and help, but she said she learned to watch from a close distance and that after a few minutes, I would figure out some way to adapt the task for my one hand. One of the first things I remember learning was what would become my life long Bible verse. It is Phillipians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Whenever I came upon a new challenge, I would quote this scripture and add onto the end “… and that includes (and I would insert the new challenge here)” This scripture carried me through all my challenges and I still find strength in it daily today. I often am asked now days, what was the toughest thing you ever had to try and do, and my answer is always, learn to tie my shoes. It took me until 3 rd grade to learn to tie my shoes. Every time I tie my shoes now, I think back to how hard it was to learn and it is a great reminder of what I’ve been able to do and overcome.

On my first day of kindergarten, I remember my mom going in with me to the classroom. She had me wear an undershirt that day under my prosthetic and had all ready planned out how she was going to help me be open and share with my peers about my “miracle hand”. She spoke with the teacher and we explained to all my classmates about my prosthetic. We told them that this was my “hook” and that I use it since I was only born with one hand. We then took the prosthetic off and explained how my hand had never grown completely when I was inside my mom. Many of the kids came up and touched the hook and some touched my hand. A few questions were asked, “does it hurt?”, “what are those bumps (my partially developed fingers)?”, etc. My mom let me answer them with her help and my classmates really never asked much about it again. I felt completely accepted and I found that if I tried new things right along side them, I was always treated as an equal.

Sports became a rather large portion of my life as I grew up through school. In particular, baseball, was my main focus. I had an awesome role model in Jim Abbott, a one-handed pitcher, who I had the opportunity to meet in person at a Chicago White Sox game. It was so cool to meet someone who was a professional athlete and was overcoming the same challenges I was. (If you are interested, there are a couple books on Jim Abbott) I have always been very competitive and with my dad’s help, he helped me learn to play baseball including throwing and catching as well as batting all based on Jim Abbott’s techniques. I played baseball from age 4-18 every year and ended up making all conference my senior year of high school. In addition to baseball, I played basketball, soccer, and track in middle school, and then football, basketball, and baseball in high school. My teammates never gave me special attention, nor did I need any. I just tried to be determined and give 110%. It resulted in lettering in every sport I played in high school, winning team captain in football and baseball my senior year, and some other special team awards I felt honored to receive.

I often times told my parents that I think being born with one hand made me more determined and more competitive. I ended up taking this determination into the classroom as well and was able to do well all through school. I ended up receiving the honor of being Valedictorian of my high school class and received a scholarship to Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I attended and graduated. Throughout high school, my friends never even noticed my partially developed hand. I had best friends who were both guys and girls and I often would joke with them about my missing hand and they would often times not even get the joke for a moment because they had just grown so accustomed to my hand. I have always felt that humor is a fun way to approach any challenges. I have done this with my hand all through life and continue to do it to this day. One thing I’ve done and everyone gets a kick out of is when I draw eyes and a mouth on my partial left hand and use my undeveloped thumb finger for a nose to make a little face on my hand. My friends and I named the character Herman, and they always loved for me to draw him. It got to a point where my friends would find a Ken doll jacket or shirt and would get it for me to put on Herman to add to his uniqueness. It was these kinds of things and taking the challenge and making light of it that I feel helped my friends learn to adjust and realize that it wasn’t something I felt bad about, it was just the way I was.

My family was always into outdoor activities: hiking, camping, boating, etc. One major portion of our lives was waterskiing. Every Thursday in the summer, my family would go out skiing, boating, and tubing. I learned to ski when I was 6 years old by placing the ski rope in my right hand and hooking my left arm through the handle at the crook of my elbow. I skied right along with my siblings and when I was 11 years old, my family joined a Water Ski Show Team in our hometown of Rockford, IL. Once on the Ski Broncs, I was faced with all new challenges to overcome. I took them on like I did everything else and with the help of some supportive ski team members I learned to jump, barefoot waterski, be the base of pyramids, ski in doubles routines with my sisters, and everything else the members of the team did. Some members actually helped me develop some special ski ropes to help me ski better and we got some local news media attention from it. It was amazing to see people come down to the shows with their kids who also had physical challenges and just want to meet me. I felt so honored that someone looked up to me for doing something that I saw as a fun sport. I have met one-on-one with several young kids with partially developed limbs now that I met through show skiing and have become good friends with them. I know where they’re coming from and I know that they have as much potential, and usually more, to do great things in their lives.

I now am a computer engineer at Caterpillar in Peoria, IL and I got married on June 11, 2005. I still am as active as ever and in college and the workplace, I continue to take my determination to every job I do. If there was something I would tell other kids and adults who are physically challenged it would be this: don’t ever see your situation as a “handicap”, it’s a “challenge” to overcome. Whenever someone told me in life, you’ll never be able to do that with one hand, it simply made me so much more determined to accomplish it and I would try until I got it done. It’s all about attitude and how you approach it. As for parents of children with these challenges, the best thing my parents did for me was to back me up all the time. That didn’t mean they jumped in every time I hit a roadblock, but they would be cheering me on and there to pick me up when I fell. They let me realize that although things are challenging, there is always a way to get it done with God’s help.

I am always open to writing, meeting with, and talking to people. Please feel free to contact me

2 thoughts on “Aaron’s ABS Story

  1. Great to hear your attitude. I too have ABS, I am hoping to compete at the Paralympic Games in Rio, I am currently a national sportsman, have a great job and dated a model for 4 years. We can achieve anything. Good luck. As for Kate, don’t worry. It will be more than fine. 🙂

  2. Aaron, thank you so much for your story. It has resonated with me like none other. My husband and I are expecting our first baby, a boy, who is missing most of his left hand. We are already planning what sports he’ll play, the adaptations we’ll help him with, and finding support. It’s nice to hear how successful you’ve been dealing with your challenges. I am not worried about how our family will deal, it’s everyone else. I have a ways to go to wrap my brain around it.
    Thank you again.

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