Story, Patient

Dalilah’s ‘Electric Spirit’ Shines Bright

August 4, 2021

Dalilah came into the world missing part of her right arm – “limb different,” as her family describes it – but she has never allowed those differences to stop her from doing the same things as any other kid.

With no right hand to aid Dalilah in grasping and manipulating small objects, the 8-year-old Children’s Hospital Colorado Patient Ambassador had to figure out different ways to approach everyday tasks. And she’s met each challenge with tenacity and determination, never giving up or allowing frustrations to get the best of her.

Dalilah, Children’s Hospital Colorado Patient Ambassador

Dalilah’s outgoing and caring personality makes a lasting impression on everyone she meets. She genuinely loves to help others – and it shows. Despite spending the year learning remotely due to the pandemic, Dalilah always made sure to offer encouragement or assistance to her classmates. At the end of the year, she was formally recognized for her upbeat attitude and contributions.

“I was really proud and excited to get an award for leadership during our online assembly,” Delilah says.

Driven by determination

Those who know her aren’t surprised Dalilah received a leadership award – she’s demonstrated the traits of a leader her entire life.

Dalilah began working with physical and occupational therapists at Children’s Colorado when she was about 9 months old. The therapists helped her learn to crawl, and later helped her to develop her fine motor skills and learn techniques to get dressed, operate scissors, use the computer, and perform a multitude of other tasks in a way that works for her.

“Our hand therapists are an amazing group of individuals who really help children like Dalilah,” says Dr. Sarah Sibbel, Dalilah’s orthopedic doctor and the director of the hand and upper extremity program at Children’s Colorado. “I tell my patients we can adapt the world to them and if there is something we can’t adapt, there are always tips and tricks we can use to help them accomplish their goal.”

As Dalilah has grown older and more adept at using her self-described “little hand,” she’s been able to problem solve how to approach new undertakings like learning to ride a bicycle or, most recently, fishing – either on her own or with her parents’ input.

“Dalilah has a good sense for what she needs to do to use her little hand to her benefit or what things she may need a little help with,” says her mom, Desirae. “She’s gotten really creative about how to figure things out, and her dad is really creative in how he helps her problem-solve, too.”

So far, Dalilah has not required any surgical interventions and only comes to see Dr. Sibbel annually to ensure there are no changes. Dalilah says she occasionally experiences some pain radiating from her elbow, which is permanently dislocated, but says it is easily managed from home.

“Dalilah is quite determined, and that’s a testament to her spirit and her family’s support,” Dr. Sibbel says.

Living and leading by example

While Dalilah’s limb difference has never defined who she is, it has made her very attuned to those like her — from personal encounters to seeing physical differences represented in the media.

“When we’ve been out and about or when we’re camping, Dalilah has met several other kids with differences. She always wants to ensure they are included in whatever she’s doing because she wants to be included,” Desirae says. “We recently saw the movie Luca, and Dalilah immediately noticed a character who was missing his arm. When the character said he was born that way, Dalilah and her dad started jumping up and down screaming, they were so excited. I got very emotional.”

Dalilah continues to enjoy her time serving as a patient ambassador, and wants to keep raising money, especially for programs that benefit other kids with limb differences.

“I take Dalilah’s example back to other families I treat,” Dr. Sibbel says. “She’s a delightful young lady and her confidence comes from having a very supportive family. In the future, I see Dalilah as someone who continues to advocate for people with limb differences, playing a leadership role in the community. She has an electric spirit about her.”