A mother's promise to 'give daughter her hands back'

16th May 2023

Tilly Lockey made a miraculous recovery from having both hands amputated as a baby. Her Mum, Sarah, was by Tilly’s side through it all. She reflects on their journey together

Sarah Lockey

When Sarah Lockey, from County Durham, was given the news that her daughter would have limbs amputated due to septiceamia, her initial reaction was pure relief that Tilly would survive.  

The implications of Tilly losing her hands came later, but Sarah didn’t let the uncertainties of the future stand in the way of teaching Tilly that she could do anything she wanted to in life. 

Sarah says, "At first I worried about silly little things, like how she’d make herself a cup of tea. But seeing how well she copes now, I needn’t have worried. She makes me cups of tea all the time!” 

What were your feelings at the time of Tilly's amputations? 

“The night before Tilly had her hands amputated, I made her a promise that one day I would give her hands back. I have since dedicated my life to keeping that promise.  

“Mentally I think it helped me a lot to stay focused on the positives, otherwise I feel like I could have spiraled in the wrong direction.  

“I was very emotional the day she went to have her amputations. I remember collecting her from recovery and seeing her little arms all bandaged up and so much shorter.  

Shock  

“The first time they took the badges off to check how they were healing was a shock. They looked so sore and bloody, and it broke my heart to see her scared and in pain.  

“I’ll never forget that feeling, but we were determined not to let the amputations affect her life negatively in any way. We have brought Tilly up to believe she can do anything and have never treated her any differently than her siblings. 

What were the initial challenges for Tilly after her operations? 

“The initial challenge for Tilly was about getting around. She struggled to crawl because of sores on her knees and on her arms where you would normally use your hands.  

“But Tilly being Tilly, she quickly adapted, and she learnt to shuffle everywhere on her bum instead. She did struggle to pull herself up to standing (she would always try and do this on the sofa) but as her arms were in bandages she couldn’t get a grip on anything.  

Achieve 

“It didn’t take too long before she mastered things though. She had to find her own way to do things and we encouraged her to do this. We had to show her that she might have to try a little harder but that she could absolutely achieve anything she wanted to.  

“After she realised this, there was no stopping her. I would ask, “Tilly do you need some help with that?” And she would say, “no I can do it all by myself”.  

“I was so super proud of her and would just watch her in awe. She is and always will be my hero.  

What have been the positive aspects of Tilly's limb loss from your perspective? 

“Tilly has always been asked the question, “If you could change what happened to you and still have your organic hands, would you?” She answers, “No.” Her experience has shaped the person she is today. 

“I wouldn’t change anything either. I couldn’t imagine Tilly with organic hands now. She was made to be bionic and help all of the other limb different people out there in the world. She is the best person for the job!  

Stigma 

“Tilly looks at her experience positively and is determined to take the stigma away from prosthetics. She is disrupting how the world views prosthetics.  

“She has huge support through her social media where she creates a safe space for others to be themselves and embrace their differences.  

“She has a massive following from people in the limb different community but also other people that are interested in the technical side of her Hero Arms, or people that love her attitude to life and want to see her excel in her careers in singing, radio, modelling and presenting. 

What has been the impact of Tilly receiving Hero Arms? 

“We first started looking for advanced prosthetics for Tilly in her last years of primary school. Starting secondary school was something she worried about - meeting new kids for the first time who weren’t from her childhood friendship group was daunting. 

“Tilly would roll her sleeves down - her confidence was obviously taking a knock.  

“Her work in developing the Hero Arm came at just the right time. Working with the prototypes and giving feedback about fun new designs gave Tilly confidence.  

Celebrating 

“The Hero Arm is all about embracing your differences and celebrating who you are. It's not about masking the fact that you have a limb difference, but wearing a prosthetic that makes you stand out in the best possible way. 

“Now the sleeves are rolled up and Tilly wants everyone to see and talk about her Hero Arms because she is proud of them. She looks at the Hero Arms as a fashion accessory - she can decorate the covers to suit her mood and style.  

“People now say they want a Hero Arm because of Tilly. That is one hell of a good feeling for me as it feels like I have kept my promise and given Tilly her hands back! 

“Being a huge part in the development of super cool, futuristic, empowering prosthetics has changed Tilly’s life for the better. It has opened doors for her and helped her gain confidence.  

“You will be seeing a lot more of Tilly - watch this space.” 

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