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Second grader Hailey Dawson got a little closer to realizing her dream of throwing the first pitch at every Major League Baseball park this week. The seven year-old has a 3D-printed hand created by the engineering department at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, due to a rare congenital disorder that left her without three fingers since birth.
Poland Syndrome is a rare birth defect that results in the underdevelopment or absence of chest muscles on one side of the body, and, often, webbing of the fingers on the same side — more frequently the right side — of the body. It affects mostly males. It was a birth defect Hailey’s parents knew she had from the beginning, her mom Yong Dawson told TODAY Parents. “We could see that she was missing fingers on the sonogram.”
But that hasn’t stopped Hailey from teaching herself to throw a ball. “There’s always baseball on TV at our house,” says Yong. “Her dad is a coach, her brother plays and travels to games, and Hailey played T-ball, though this year she’s doing swimming instead.”
Hailey’s 3D-printed hand operates with fishing wire, and her fingers move with the flick of her wrist. Yong contacted the University of Nevada-Las Vegas to see if someone could help engineer her daughter a hand after reading an article about a robotic alternative to prosthetics. They did, using a 3D printer, and since then Yong has worked closely with students and professors at UNLV, and says the most incredible moment was seeing her husband hold hands with Hailey. “You could always grasp onto her, but with the robotic hand, she was actually holding his hand back.”
Hailey’s first moment in the spotlight was two years ago when she threw out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game. On September 7, the Bleacher Report tweeted about her quest to throw first pitches at all MLB ballparks, and since then a slew of major league teams — including the Minnesota Twins, the Detroit Tigers, the New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers, Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s — have stepped up to invite Hailey to realize her dream.
Hailey has been excited about all the attention and baseball opportunities coming her way, says Yong Dawson. She says the family hopes to visit the different ballparks “in clusters” and that they will probably hit many of them in 2018, as baseball season is ending and Hailey is busy with school.
While Hailey lives out her field of dreams, she’s also raising awareness of her condition. This bright, athletic girl, who is missing the pointer, middle and ring finger on her right hand, has proven that you can do anything you set your mind to.
“She doesn’t think she’s different,” Yong says about her daughter. “She says she has a special hand. When I tell her that other people are inspired by her she says ‘I’m just being me.’”
You can follow more of her story on her Instagram page, Haileys_Hand.