Boy who spent birthdays 'wishing' arm would grow back gets bionic arm after generosity of plumber
A schoolboy who spent his past birthdays "wishing" his arm would grow back has been gifted an £13,000 bionic limb due to the kindness of a plumber.
Alex Sparkes, from Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, was born without his right forearm and his parents dreamt of getting him a replacement.
His mother Dionne said her seven-year-old son constantly faces difficulties in situations most people take being able to use both hands for granted.
The 33-year-old said she had no idea that he was missing a limb until her “headstrong” son was born in hospital.
She also said that while he is “loved” by his friends, he had spent past birthdays “wishing” his arm would grow back.
Young children were also "scared" of him when he first went to school after spotting his single arm, she said.
Alex and his parents Dionne and Robin were invited to an event hosted by Open Bionics, where Alex was given the chance to experience the "Hero Arm" which was a potential option for the seven-year-old.
Previously Alex had never enjoyed wearing prosthetics, but Dionne said his face lit up when the arm was attached and he was able to move it.
After seeing their son's reaction, the idea went from something the parents thought they could not afford to something they needed to do.
Initially the couple were determined to pay for the arm themselves and were persuaded by Open Bionics to consider crowdfunding the £13,000 needed to buy the bionic arm.
They managed to raise around £2,000 and were told to approach big companies and sports teams in a bid to increase exposure.
This lead to a life-changing £12,000 donation from Depher - the Burnley charity started by James Anderson.
Dionne said: "The last 24 hours haven't really sunk in. It's incredible. No amount of words can ever come out of my mouth to show how grateful I am as a mother for my son."
"It was very much out of my comfort zone [to run the campaign] but it wasn't about me. It was about my son."
Dionne's husband messaged Blackburn Hawks, who messaged back saying they had put the family in touch with a person called James.
She continued: "I was at work and didn't know that conversation had happened yet and I got a message from someone saying 'Hi, it's James, can you ring me?
"When I did, he said 'Hi, Blackburn Hawks have contacted me, I'd very much like to fund your son's arm'."
Dionne was caught off guard and while she thanked him, she was a hesitant about it being real.
After googling his number, she saw the stories of previously people he had helped and the reality sank in.
"I rang my husband and he'd got a message saying congratulations on hitting your fundraising amount. It's just incredible," she said.
The money had been transferred over immediately and James later visited the family to tell Alex the good news.
Dionne said he was already teary eyed as a result of hay fever and then became emotional when the news sunk in.
"Alex was stunned. When he gave him a hug, Alex welled up. We all had a family hug afterwards and we all had a cry," she said.
Alex will soon make a trip to Bristol for two days where a measuring and testing process will take place over.
After the manufacturing process takes place the arm will be ready in a matter of weeks.
James, whose company Depher has helped millions of people, saids he fell “in love” with Alex after Carl Everitt, the co-owner of ice hocket team the Hawks, told him about the fundraiser.
He said: “His story drew me in. If Depher can do anything, this would be it. The arm will give a little boy his life back. I fell in love with him.
“He will remember it for the rest of his life and it will make his life much better. It will make a little boy live again.
"It was humbling to meet him, and it was wonderful to see his smile when I told him. It was an easy decision.
“He is smiling and happy and getting on with his life. It’s just wonderful to see a young boy go through so much and just want to be as normal as possible.”