FOR shy teenager Chloe Holmes, bionic fingers and a fresh start mean that she now holds a world of possibilities in her hand.
The 16-year-old, who became the youngest person in Europe to be fitted with bionic digits little more than a year ago, has been getting used to doing all the things that were previously out of her reach – including drying her own hair, holding a knife and fork and cooking.
The hand, which was made and fitted by Touch Bionics in Scotland, cost £38,000, but parents Sue and Pete, both 42, of Ashtree Close, Stratton , said they never had second thoughts about paying out the cash.
The former-Kingsdown School pupil was struck down with chicken pox at the age of three-and-a-half and contracted streptococcal septicaemia, spending three months in hospital in Bristol – where doctors had to resuscitate her four times.
She lost all the fingers on her left hand and was left with one thumb and half a finger on her right hand and has battled bullying ever since.
But now, after obtaining two Bs, four Cs, four Ds and a pass in business at GCSE, she has applied for retail jobs, has a boyfriend and is about to start a computing course at New College.
“It has been difficult getting used to the hand, but it has really helped me,” Chloe, a keen singer, said.
“I love cooking, particularly lasagne and spaghetti bolognese, and I was never able to do that before.
“I can dry my hair and brush it in the mornings now too.
“Last week when we went out for dinner, I used it to pick up my chips, which were too hot for my other hand, and I dipped them in the gravy. The old couple sat nearby were looking at me strangely.
“Sometimes when we are in the pub dad asks me to go and pick his pint up off the bar, which is funny because I get odd looks off the bar staff.
“I really want to learn to drive and in the two job interviews I’ve had I always say ‘it won’t affect my work’. I love computers and I’m looking forward to starting college.
“It has made life liveable.”
Chloe said she is pleased to have left school where bullies made life all the more difficult, so much so she admitted she thought about self-harm.
“There were days when I didn’t want to go to school and even during my exams I had to resit some because I couldn’t face going in,” she said.
“Mum used to make me write things down when I was upset – that helped me a little bit. I like singing and I’ve written a song about bullying.”
Dad Pete said the family were looking into cosmetic titanium implants for her right hand and an adjustment to the thumb on her left.
But the teenager said she was not so sure.
“I’m a bit squeamish about blood and needles,” she said. “But mum always says I’ve been through worse than that anyway.”