COLUMBIA — With school, softball, dance and basketball, Jordan Reeves is as busy as any 7-year-old.
It seems incidental to notice her physical difference; she seems to rise so clearly above it. But Jordan was born with a left arm that stops just below the elbow.
Check out Jen's blog, Born Just Right
Her mother, Jen, has been determined since her daughter was born to turn the difference into a positive by writing about her experiences and connecting with other families. Thus, she started her blog, Born Just Right — also a website and sponsor of related events.
"I was very open about the process I was going through emotionally," she said. "It's evolved from me figuring it out to me finding solutions and learning about limb differences to telling stories from our personal perspective and being positive."
When Jordan was born, the confusing world of limb differences was gathered into a forum in one tiny corner of the Internet.
Seven years later, the Reeves family has been able to build a support system that spans continents. Jen Reeves has connected with not only other families in Missouri but also in Australia, India and England.
Jen called creating an open and honest conversation about limb difference incredibly important. Addressing common difficulties helps put other families at ease.
"Learning how to not worry about stares; learning to let it go," she said. "That is probably the hardest thing."
Many families have the only limb-different child in their community. Making connections can be life-changing.
"Some of these kids have never seen another kid with a limb difference in person," Jen said.
Jordan chimed in as she collected dandelions and skipped down the street: "We have people come together so that they don’t feel scared of who they are."
Learning to deal
The reason for Jordan's limb difference is medically unclear, according to doctors. The most likely option is a circulatory problem where a blood clot or tiny malfunction in her heart occurred as her arm was being formed. This potential diagnosis came from doctors' speculation and Jen's research about limb disorders.
An estimated one in 2,000 babies is born with all or part of a limb missing or formed differently, according to The Center for Limb Differences at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich. The center was established in 1946 as the nation's first program focused on children with limb differences.
Centers like Mary Free Bed offer treatment plans based on each child's needs. They offer assistance in many areas, from surgery to physical therapy to providing adaptive equipment.
"Our team approach is key to the success of our patients, and it's amazing to see how children respond in such incredibly positive ways," said Julie Honeycutt, a senior pediatric clinician at Mary Free Bed.
"The main goal is to help children with limb differences do things any other child does."
That is in line with the goals of the Reeves family — to promote positivity and confidence in Jordan.
She is not only confident but has become proud that she is the only student at school with one hand.
Although a variety of prosthetic limbs have been built for Jordan, the most recent one was broken on the playground, an understandable accident for an active 7-year-old.
As she tears up the living room with yet another childhood art project, Jordan appears to be just like your typical seven-year-old — moving like the speed of light and not slowing down for anything, including the lack of her left hand.
"My job as a parent is to help her feel supported," her mother said. "I don’t want her to feel like this is going to hold her back because it’s not. It’s a hand. Sure, she has to figure out how to do stuff different, but so do lots of people. And that’s the message that I hope we’re sending."
Camp with no limits
Born Just Right helps raise money for a camp called Camp No Limits, a traveling camp that teaches life skills to limb-different children. Each year, Born Just Right helps give children the opportunity to attend. The camp heads back to Missouri June 13-16.
Last year, Born Just Right raised over $4,000 and the hope is to raise even more this year. Jordan has decided that this year she will donate her allowance to the cause.
The Reeves family has been able to attend since Jordan was 3.
"It’s a really great camp," her mother said. "They teach life skills so Jordan has gotten really awesome at shoe-tying now. She learned how to snap and zip and type, and now we’re taking piano."
As for Jordan, she is in the carefree and whirlwind world of a 7-year-old, effortlessly seeming to take her difference into stride.
"We're all different and that's what makes us the same," she said.