See Who Inspires Us | Meet Ashley

Despite being born with symbrachydactyly — a condition in which the middle three fingers of her left hand never fully develop — 13-year-old Ashley makes most things look easy. She runs cross-country, plays basketball and even competes on the uneven bars in gymnastics, all with a hand that sets her apart from most kids her age.

From Denver to Boston

Ever since Ashley was 10 months old, her family has travelled from their home in Denver to Boston Children’s Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center to see Orthopedic Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Peter Waters.

Ashley’s mom, Juli, remembers their first visit from Denver with complete clarity. Waters walked up to Ashley and held out a pencil to her left hand. She quickly grabbed it, causing him to smile and say, “Young lady, you’re going to do great things.”

“Right then, we knew he was the doctor we’d been looking for,” says Juli. “And ever since then we’ve had quite the bond.” That bond has lasted through multiple visits from Denver and two surgeries — which helped improve the function of Ashley’s hand.

Competing at a higher level

Ashley became more and more active as she grew, and never stopped believing in her abilities. This mindset would lead her to gymnastics. “I like flipping and challenging myself,” Ashley says. “I just like going for it.”

When Ashley started competing at a higher level and doing faster and stronger movements on the bars, she began having trouble holding on with her left hand. Her parents reached out to Dr. Waters and he connected them with the Hanger Group, who built Ashley a one-of-a-kind gymnastic grip to help her hang onto the bar.

 

Not just helping herself

Ashley also wants other children with hand differences to have the opportunity to experience the thrills of play and competition. She recently designed her own prosthetic named “All You Need is a Helping Hand” to help kids with congenital hand differences play on the playground.

Rather than holding her back or giving her an excuse to achieve less, Ashley’s condition has inspired her to work harder and help others along the way. She plans to compete in gymnastics through high school, and hopefully in college as well. Though her aspirations may be lofty, if you have any doubt in her ability to achieve them, you just don’t know Ashley.