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Local amputee gets prosthetic arm

She's four years old and she likes to dance and do gymnastics. Clare McNamara, who was born a right-arm amputee, just got a new artificial arm she can use when she's active.
Clare McNamara, 4, uses her new prosthetic arm that has her favourite characters from the movie Frozen on it, as she practices her dance moves.

She's four years old and she likes to dance and do gymnastics.

Clare McNamara, who was born a right-arm amputee, just got a new artificial arm she can use when she's active.

It's got her favourite Frozen movie characters on it and it helps keep her balance better with it than without it.

Clare had been making due without a prosthetic but her needs are greater now as she gets older and there's plenty more she'd like to do.

An assist from an artificial limb will help, mom Karissa said.

"We are very serious about dance right now," Karissa laughed. "We're dancing over the internet right now with Judy Russell. Sometimes Clare is the only one in the class and she gets lots of attention and she just loves it."

The family found out Clare had the amputation during Karissa's 18-week ultrasound. The cause for the in utero amputation has been deemed unknown. The McNamara family was connected to War Amps soon after the ultrasound made the discovery.

The War Amps Child Amputee Program, established in 1975, has offered support to people in need both emotionally and financially.

"Clare is very active and social and COVID has been a challenge," Karissa said. "Clare is pretty determined and doesn't let her arm hold her back. She just figures out a way she can do it her way with the prosthetic."

Clare participates in gymnastics and ballet, likes to ride her bike and generally is a typical energetic four year old.

"This doesn't hold her back at all," Karissa said.

Clare had a prosthetic when she was younger but it didn't help her do anything she didn't already do. Getting an artificial arm now was spurred by the fact that there was more Clare wanted to try and she's old enough now to make it work.

"We thought we should get a prosthetic that would work for her bike and she now has a gymnastics swinging arm so she can do the bars," Karissa said. "There's just more things she can do with it now and having the Frozen characters on it just adds motivation to practice with it and get used to it."

As a family the McNamara's really enjoy being outside.

Murdock, their seven-year-old Burmese Mountain Dog, comes on all their outdoor adventures where the family, including one-year-old Amelia and dad Brian, along with Karissa and Clare, like to hike and explore the wilderness. Karissa and Brian were both born and raised in Prince George and have chosen to stay in town, raising their family close to their parents because grandparents are wonderful to have around, Karissa said.

The McNamara family recently went up to Tumbler Ridge on the hunt for dinosaur fossils and prints but the river was too high to view them.

"But we did find fossils of seashells," Karissa said.

"We all love getting outside and we snowshoe in the winter and often bike and hike in the summer."

Karissa said the whole family is very appreciative of the support they get from War Amps.

"They provide any additional funds after the cost goes through our health benefits and so there's no cost to us as a family to get the prosthetic for Clare and we were able to get a gymnastics swinging arm, a tumble arm shaped like a mushroom and then we got the ballet hand and the bike attachment."

War Amps always promotes healthy living.

"And they provided funding for all the recreational attachments for the arm," Karissa said. "War Amps also puts on an annual conference (when they can) and we've been to each conference for the last three years and it's a really nice experience for Clare to get to see all the other kids and she's met a friend with a similar amputation. It's a really nice opportunity for the kids to connect and also for us as parents to connect as well. War Amps does an awesome job of connecting families and that makes you feel like you're part of a community."

The first time the McNamara family attended the conference, that usually takes place in Vancouver or Victoria, Clare wasn't even a year old.

"It was all so new to us," Karissa recalled. "It was awesome to see the bigger girls as teenagers and see what that looks like and gave us a lot to think about. It was so nice to see how well those teenagers are doing and that gave us a lot of reassurance."