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Prosthetic glove being designed for Hermon teenager

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HERMON - Abigail “Abbey” M. Mott was born without several of her fingers and toes.

A congenital birth defect, called amniotic band, prevented nine of her digits from developing properly.

Molly A. Mott said it wasn’t until her daughter’s July 23, 1995, birth that she discovered Abbey was missing five fingers and four toes.

“They don’t know why it happens,” Ms. Mott said. “It’s not genetic. Birth defects can happen even if you do everything right.”

Abbey, now a 16-year-old high school junior at Hermon-DeKalb Central School, has never let her situation slow her down or stop her from trying new things.

She plays on the school’s soccer and basketball teams, plays bells in the school band and serves as president of her junior class.

As a child, Abbey reached normal milestones such as lacing her shoes and learning to write.

“I’ve never known anything different so I’m adapted to it,” the teen said. “Not many people notice it right away, but if they ask I will tell them about it.”

Ms. Mott agrees with that approach.

“We’ve always been very honest, candid and open about it,” she said.

Basically, the abnormality occurs when a mother’s amniotic sac partially ruptures during pregnancy, causing bands of fibroids to be released. The bands can wrap around the baby’s legs, arms, toes, fingers or other body parts, which stop developing because the bands constrict circulation. Amniotic banding affects approximately one in 1,200 live births.

Interested in helping Abbey, two SUNY Canton students are in the process of designing her a customized prosthetic glove.

Joel M. “Miles” Canino, 21, and his fiancee, Natalie A. Kurgan, 20, have teamed up on the project and said they’re confident it will improve the mobility of Abbey’s hands. Both are engineering science majors and they plan to seek a patent for their work. Mr. Canino is from Southington, Conn., and Ms. Kurgan is from Cleveland, Ohio.

They learned about Abbey’s situation from Ms. Mott, who is employed as SUNY Canton’s vice president of student affairs.

“There’s a lot more motivation to get it done when you know you are doing something that will actually help someone,” Mr. Canino said.

The duo’s work included designing plastic devices that will essentially serve as finger tips for Abbey. A polymer wire attached to the plastic piece will be activated by the muscles and tendons in Abbey’s upper forearm.

“It’s similar to a pulley system,” Mr. Canino said. “It will take a force that’s already being generated and redirect it along the polymer wire.”

The wire and the plastic will all fit inside a glove made from a stretchy, skin-colored material.

Abbey said she’s curious to see how well the prosthetic glove functions when it’s finished.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to try it,” she said. “I definitely want to see what it’s like to have the extra strength.”

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