As part of our Rebuilding Lives series, looking at the work of Preston’s specialist centre which helps patients born without limbs or those who have lost them get the most out of their lives.
Investigative Reporter AASMA DAY talks to the family of Ben Seward, a youngster determined to achieve his rugby dream despite a missing hand.
Watching her son’s ingenuity as he uses his chin in place of a second hand as he plays on a games console, Carol Seward feels a proud smile spreading across her face.
Ben, who was born with part of his right arm missing, does not let it stand in the way of anything. He attempts to do his best at everything and is just as good at most things with one hand as most people are with two.
Mum Carol, who is married to David and also has daughter Kaitlyn, 12 and lives in Euxton, near Chorley says proudly: “The only thing Ben can’t do is tie his own shoelaces.
“Everything else, he has a good go at.
“If there is something he can’t do, he quickly works out a way of doing it.”
Ben, 10, was born with his right arm missing the wrist and hand and his disability was only discovered at his birth.
Carol recalls: “It came as a huge shock to us as the pregnancy had all gone smoothly and we only realised Ben’s hand was missing after he was born.
“I had gestational diabetes while I was pregnant so had extra scans and ended up having five scans instead of the usual two.
“At the 20 week scan, they did say they couldn’t see all the limbs, so told me to go back for another scan.
“However, when I went back a week later, I was told everything was fine.”
Ben was born by Caesarean section and as the doctors held the newborn out to show his parents, dad David noticed and asked: “What’s wrong with his arm?” and the medics took him away to investigate.
Carol says: “Ben has his elbow of his right arm, but about half way down after that, it just stops and there is no wrist or hand.
“It is a bit of a blur but I remember feeling shocked when I found out Ben was born without one of his hands.
“As my baby, I wanted to protect him but I worried about him going to nursery and school and about how he would cope.”
Carol’s fears proved unfounded as even from a young age, Ben proved extremely resourceful at living life to the full despite having only one hand.
And although Ben does have a prosthetic hand, he tends to only use it for cosmetic reasons for things like having his photograph taken and prefers to manage with just one hand.
Carol explains: “Ben was given his first prosthetic hand when he was only seven-months-old.
“But at this stage, he was already walking around the furniture and his prosthetic hand just hindered him so he would take it off and throw it away.
“Even now, Ben just tends to use his prosthetic hand for cosmetic things rather than practical ones.
“He did try using a mechanical hand and had the training for it. However, because of the alignment of his arm, it did not really work for him.
“Ben adapts to whatever situation is presented to him.
“Even when he is playing on the Wii, when he needs both hands when using the nunchuck, he balances it on his arm and uses his chin.”
Ben, a Year Six pupil at Euxton CE Primary School, first expressed an interest in playing rugby a few years ago and began playing for Chorley Panthers Under Sevens.
He has recently finished the season with Chorley Panthers Under 10s and when the season starts again in March, he will be in the Under 11s.
Ben is also a season ticket holder for Wigan Warriors and goes on player camps with them as well.
Carol says: “Ben loves rugby - it is his life.
“He plays with one hand and copes just fine. He tucks the ball under his arm and off he goes.
“Ben does very well with his rugby and is a very popular member of the team.
“He is not allowed to wear his prosthetic hand for rugby because of health and safety reasons but Ben wouldn’t want to anyway as he manages perfectly well with just one hand.
“Ben is just like any normal child and joins in everything and never uses his arm as an excuse.”
At one point, Ben’s family feared he might have to give up rugby as Ben has a genetic blood clotting gene which means his blood clots easily.
Carol explains: “Ben bruises really easily and a knock on the head could lead to a blood clot.
“As rugby gets more feisty after the age of 11, Ben’s consultant initially advised him to stop playing after the age of 11.
“However, it is low risk and as Ben loves rugby so much that he is going to carry on.”
Ben has been a patient at the Specialist Mobility Rehabilitation Centre on Watling Street Road, Preston, which is run by Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust, since he was three-months-old.
Carol says: “The centre is an amazing place and it has really helped Ben and he enjoys going there.
“The staff there are all fantastic and there is always a relaxed and fun atmosphere and it is nothing like going to a hospital.
“But until you need it, you would not know it was there.”
Ben said: “I like going to the Specialist Mobility Rehabilitation Centre as everyone there is really nice and I always have a great time there. It is always fascinating seeing the kind of things they do at the centre.
“I support Wigan Warriors rugby team and I love playing it too.
“Rugby is a really good sport because you get to be with your friends a lot and do fun things.
“I play winger and centre and I feel that having one hand does not hold me back from playing rugby at all.
“When I am older, I want to become a professional rugby player for Wigan Warriors.”