Born in New York in 1962, Kim Doolan is congenitally missing her
right arm at the elbow. Aged just 18 months, she was fitted with
her first prosthetic device - a passive arm. At three she was
fitted with a body powered hook and elbow device, variations of
which she used for the next 30 years.
"Once I had my hook, I never looked back," says Kim. "Grown ups
told me that using a passive device was a waste of time as function
was the all important factor... and I didn't question
In 1990, Kim went to work as a prosthetic technician for a
developer of myoelectric prosthetic devices, and, although she
worked as a patient model for the company, she was never tempted to
opt for a myoelectric solution for herself.
"I'm petite, and the myoelectric devices were a bit too large
and heavy for my small frame," she says.
In 1996, Kim moved to Texas, where she became clinical
coordinator for Allen Orthotics and Prosthetics. Soon after her
move to Texas, Kim was approached by LIVINGSKIN, who offered to fit
her with a custom-made silicone prosthesis and a part-time work
engagement with the company.
"I really liked the company and the product, so it was an easy
decision to say yes," recalls Kim. "What I didn't realize at the
time was that a passive device would make such a difference to my
A keen gardener, Kim still uses her hook device to help her in
the garden, and also for everyday household tasks, but her
LIVINGSKIN device is much more functional than she would ever have
previously thought possible.
"It's very interesting to compare the LIVINGSKIN device and my
hook from a skill versus spontaneity standpoint," explains Kim. "On
the one hand, the hook is very functional, so it scores highly from
a skill perspective, but it's also quite clumsy and unattractive,
so I'm less likely to use it spontaneously. Even though my
LIVINGSKIN device is less functional than the hook because it
doesn't allow me to actively grasp objects, the fact that it looks
so realistic actually means that I am much more likely to use it
without even thinking about it."
From a functional perspective, Kim now uses her LIVINGSKIN
device to stabilize and carry papers and charts at work. She
can also pull the lever on the coffee machine, hold plates and and
carry grocery bags.
"Another thing I've noticed is that my overall posture improves
when I'm wearing my LIVINGSKIN arm," says Kim. "When I was out in
public, I tended to try and hide my hook to avoid unwanted
attention, which resulted in poor posture. With LIVINGSKIN, no one
knows that this isn't my real arm, so I always stand up straight
when I'm wearing it... it's a confidence thing."
"To be honest, I used to get a lot more space in public when I
was wearing my hook than I do when I'm wearing my LIVINGSKIN!" adds
Kim with a chuckle. "But that just shows how much I blend in now -
my disability is invisible when I'm wearing it."
Kim continues to work for Allen Orthotics and Prosthetics and in
a part-time capacity for Touch Bionics. One of her crowning
achievements was co-authoring an article on Aesthetic Prostheses in
the Atlas of Amputation and Limb Differences in 2004.