NEW CITY, N.Y. (CBS 2) — Like any teenager, 16-year-old Nicole was thrilled to be learning how to drive, but she was never sure this day would come.
Though her two hands were planted firmly on the wheel, just six months ago she wasn’t able to use her right hand at all.
“When I was young I was worried I wouldn’t be able to drive and stuff,” she said.
In fact, Nicole hasn’t been able to use her right hand since she was 5-years-old, when a neurological disorder attacked muscles and destroyed her hand’s movement.
Through the years, doctors said nothing could be done. “I was worried because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life like this,” Nicole said.
She and her family kept looking for help. “You do your best for your child. You don’t give up till you find a cure,” Nicole’s mother said.
Finally, Dr. Scott Wolfe of the Hospital for Special Surgery, inspired by Nicole’s determination, took on the case.
“Nicole was very certain she wanted her hand back, was going to do what it took to get it, and that was a key element in my decision to do the surgery,” he said.
During two operations, Dr. Wolf transplanted tendons from Nicole’s arm to work with the few remaining muscles in her hand. Slowly but surely, her hand and fingers regained some movement.
“I couldn’t wave a magic wand and bring my hand back to normal but when you have nothing, even a little is a lot,” Nicole said.
With physical therapy, that little has turned into major improvement and changed her life. “Like holding onto a roller coaster, doing things like like texting, holding a cup of ice cream and eating it, he gave me huge break,” Nicole said.
Nicole said she sees progress each week and has a powerful lesson for everyone who faces a challenge. “I would just say never give up. You never know what you’re going to find. You just got to look at the bright side.”
Doctors said Nicole was expected to regain nearly full use of the hand.