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A chat with Champs from Newfoundland and Labrador
Kirill Facey, eight, just got back from a bike ride around his nan’s pond.
You may only catch a glimpse of him as he speeds around on his Darth Vader themed bike.
Kirill was born without part of his right arm and as a member of The War Amps Child Amputee (CHAMP) program, he is getting financial assistance for a new bike arm.
The War Amps is a Canadian non-profit organization, started in 1918, to meet the needs of war amputees. The CHAMP program gives services like financial assistance, peer support and regional seminars for children who have lost limbs through an accident or medical causes.
Kirill just got his second bike arm, that fastens to a ball and joint on the handlebar, which rotates so he can cruise on any terrain, stay balanced and steer his bike easier.
His mom, Lesley Facey, says it wasn’t always this easy for him to ride. When he first tried out his tricycle he would hunch over to have better control over his bike.
The family attended their first CHAMP seminar and after seeing another child with a bike arm, they decided to get Kirill his first one.
“The biggest thing, is for the future, it keeps his back align now. Because one thing with amputees is that everything has to be overcompensated,” Lesley said. “A lot of amputees will end up with back troubles much earlier than normal … even though now, he is pretty agile at eight, it’s being preventative now so that when he is 20, he doesn’t have the back of a 60-year-old.”
In less than a year, Kirill grew out of his first bike limb. The device is one of the simpler ones and costs $6,000, Lesley says.
“They are just like socks and shoes,” she said. “What provincial healthcare and insurance doesn’t realize is that (artificial) limbs are not a one for life. They are constantly being used, breaking down. They need repairs and they need to be replaced.”
There is no provincial coverage for recreational limbs for amputees. So, if a child amputee wants an artificial limb to assist them in anything like swimming, gymnastics and biking — it’s on the family to buy it themselves.
“He’s just so happy. It’s nice to see him do everything that every other child can do and he’s not standing out.” Lesley said.
Kirill shows that kids are quick to adapt. He takes pride in showing his “magic trick,” — that is the motion of taking on and off his artificial limb that makes a ‘click’ sound.
He also has high hopes for the future of artificial limbs.
“I think they are going to (make an artificial limb) have a button where if you press it a colouring book comes up,” Kirill said.
Kirill’s big plans for the summer are going to the park, some play dates and attending War Amps 2019 Atlantic CHAMP Seminar.
He hopes to be a junior counsellor at the seminars one day.
“Because you can help the little kids out,” Kirill said.
The mentee turns mentor
Jay Felix is a 17-year-old from Paradise, NL. When he’s not working, he is tinkering with his dirt bike that he loves to ride.
He plans on going to business school and creating his own bike shop in 10 years.
He was born with a partial right hand and has been a junior counsellor at the seminars for four years now.
For now, he is enjoying answering questions and giving advice to child amputees.
He is invited back again for this year’s seminar, themed “Just the Way I Am.” To Jay, this means accepting who he is and learning to do things he loves to do even if it’s different from how others may do it.
“I had attended several CHAMP seminars and felt I had learned everything there was to learn,” Jay said. “Once there was nothing new to learn it was time to help others learn tools that will help them through life.”
Jay and Kirill met at the seminars, where they learn how to face the challenge of acceptance. Something that anyone can struggle with time to time.
“As a kid and now as a teenage I never wanted to be singled out, to be classified as different. I have learned to do things differently. I get them done as any other kid and that’s very important to me.” Jay said.
As a junior counsellor, Jay is normally asked “how can I do this?” by kids who want to be active and want to learn what tools will help them play.
“Many champs through the use of artificial limbs allow them to participate in many sports they would not otherwise play and live more independently, that’s what we all want as we get older.” Jay said.
He offers some advice to Kirill, as a junior counsellor and as a soon to be adult.
“While he is still very young and has so much to learn and experience, I would tell Kirill to keep wanting more,” Jay said. “If he wants to play more sports, he can learn to do that with his new limb. If he wants to learn more about how to deal with questions and stares from kids his age, continue to attend the seminars,
“Being confident with your own abilities enables you to move past the reality that you do things differently. At the end of the day we are all different in so many ways, inside and out.” Jay said.