born with ABS in 1949

 I was born in September, 1949.  At my birth, I had the high webbing between all of my fingers and toes.  The digits affects and how are:
~On my left hand, my pinky and ring fingers are missing after the first joint, my middle finger has most of the tip missing, and my index finger is missing at just before the last joint.
~The index, middle and ring fingers of my right hand were fused together, but the doctor separated the index and middle fingers at birth.  The ring finger has the first joint, while the other two are missing from lower than that.  
~On my feet, I am missing both big toes below the first joint.  The adjoining toe on my right foot is missing from just beyond the first joint.  There are some six bands remaining on my toes.

My mother had the measles three months into her pregnancy, and I grew up believing this was the cause of my hand and feet deformities.  When I was age 21, my husband’s employer pulled my husband aside and explained that one of his granddaughters has recently been born with the same issues.  They had sought out answers and the best doctor to work with that granddaughter, and had found both in Dr. Adrian Flatt at the University of Iowa—only a 45 minute drive from us!  

(NOTE: Dr. Adrian Flatt, born in England, was at his first USA hospital at that point, and “At Iowa City he directed major research programs in congenital anomalies and biomechanics of the hand…”  For more information on this wonderful doctor who was a pioneer for most of us, see: )

I began a series of operations performed by Dr. Flatt; the first, on my left hand, separated webbing between my ring/middle fingers and my idex/thumb.  That surgery also removed a band and fingernail root on my index finger.  My second surgery, on my right hand, separated webbing between the thumb/index and the ring/little fingers.  Due to the 6-week recuperation required at that time, those two were the only surgeries I was able to work out with employers before Dr. Flatt left UofI in 1979.  But what a difference that increased hand span on both hands had!  

Dr. Flatt contributed vastly to my understanding and hand span, but my biggest thank-you goes to my parents.  A year after my birth, my father lost several digits on his left hand in a corn-picker accident.  He set out with a fierce determination that both of us were going to learn to use what we had left, to the fullest.  The only ‘favoring’ I received because of my hands was to be allowed to choose for myself which hand would be my dominant, which is my left (That was not acceptable in that era, and teachers as far out as my eighth grade were still trying to force me to write with my right hand.)   

An anecdote of my father’s fierceness:  Typing was not offered in my school system until our freshman year, and my father impatiently awaited that time.  Once I was firmly installed in that class (1962), my father maintained contact with my teacher, checking my progress.  After a few weeks, I came home from school one day to find a strange box on the table, with my father standing over it.  He opened the box to a top-of-the-line portable typewriter, stating, “I just spent over $150 on this, and you ARE going to learn to use it!”

Now at age 64, it has been only a few years since I have come to understand the source of those bands Dr. Flatt explained so many years ago.  I still can’t wear heels since I don’t have big toes for balance, and I tear the insoles out of shoes with the way Iwalk on the balls of my feet and grab on with what toes I have, but I can do anything else–I was lucky to not have the club foot aspect. My life has been full of activities that most still do consider near impossible for me, thanks to my dad and his contributions to my fine dexterity.  That dexterity even amazed Dr. Flatt back in 1972.  When people do notice and comment on my hands, I explain what I know of how it came about.  I usually get some form of a compliment of all I’m able to do, to which I respond with a smile, “I’m always amazed that you guys can keep all that from getting in your way!”