Features 02/12/02

No arms? No worries, as teacher and motivational speaker walks the walk and talks the talk

By Kari Gray

Elizabeth Hammond's brunette locks flow down her shoulders and cascade down her back in the 19th- century look of a proper lady. Her smile is rich with life and determination. Though she is considered short, her compassionate attitude soars her high above the rest of the world.

She is also has her ordinary side. She drives to work, has hobbies including cooking and drawing and always cries when "Goose" dies in her favorite movie, Top Gun.

Just a regular all-American girl. With no arms.

Driving to work to teach at the Red Apple Preschool, Hammond controls the gas and brake pedal with her right foot and guides the steering wheel with her left foot, resting her knee comfortably on the windowsill.

Hammond teachers her nearly two dozen 4- and 5-year-olds how to cut with scissors, write their name and do simple math.

Her students call her "Ms. Liz" and often ask where her arms went. She tells them, "I was just born that way," To the kids of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where she attends church, she tells them "I left them up in heaven."

Back in her own childhood days, Hammond recalls her grade school friends who used to tie her long, empty sleeves to the chair or to a door.

Laughing, Hammond says, "It was all in fun, there was never any mean teasing. Besides if they tied my sleeves to the chair I would just tie their shoelaces together with my feet."

Hammond also remembers when she was 4 and still learning to use her feet as hands. She wanted to surprise her mom and paint her toenails all by herself. So, going to the bathroom she reached up to the top of the counter to get the nail polish. Losing her balance she fell back, plunging her bottom into the toilet where her body fit perfectly.

"Mom! Help, I in the toilet," she yelled.

Her mother hurried to the bathroom and saw what her daughter had gotten herself into, laughed out loud, and called her older brother and sister to come see.

Hammond said her birth defect apparently began when her mother started spotting during pregnancy in the first trimester.

Her mother thought it was a miscarriage so the doctor wanted to administer a shot. Hammond said, "My mother didn't want any drugs at all. She even stopped drinking Diet Pepsi during pregnancy -- her favorite drink."

However, the doctor persuaded her to have the drug, called Delalutin. He said it wouldn't harm the baby, it would just prevent a miscarriage.

Six months later Elizabeth Hammond was born with no arms. She joined the ranks with many other babies who where born with missing limbs, heart failure, blindness, deafness and other inhibiting birth defects and illnesses.

Hammond says Delalutin is now off the market after researchers discovered its side effects.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Company manufactured and endorsed the drug until it was taken off the market."

According to medical researchers Seegmiller, Nelson and Johnson in the journal article "Evaluation of the teratogenic potential of Delalutin in mice," a group of female mice were given different doses of Delalutin over 18 days. On day 18, the fetuses were removed and inspected for malformations. Mice with higher doses resulted in 13 percent maternal deaths. The conclusion for this research said Delalutin did not significantly affect malformation rate of the offspring.

However, according to www.sillscommis.com, the law offices of Sills Cummis Radin Tischman Epstein and Gross, New Jersey's largest law firm, handled an excess of 30 claims of birth defects associated with the drug Delalutin, which is a synthetic progesterone.

Also, in 1977 the New York Times said the most common brands of drugs to prevent miscarriages were Delalutin, Duphaston, Norlutate, Norlutin and Provera. It quoted the FDA as saying they "are ineffective for preventing miscarriages and when taken in pregnancy can cause risk of birth defects."

Hammond said the reason her family knows it was Delalutin was because her mother did not take any other drugs during pregnancy.

Hammond said her mother was not aware of the birth defect before she was born.

"I just came out, and surprise! No arms," Hammond said.

But Hammond does not feel her life is any different. She frequently is a motivational speaker and has visited with many youth and children that are struggling in their own ways. She said, "When it comes right down to it, we are all the same. Just wanting to be loved, facing challenges and having needs."

Her four nieces and three nephews also see her as no different. Hammond's nephew, Justin Kidman, an 8-year-old, simply said, "I don't think there is anything different. I really would like to use my feet 'cause she (Hammond) is pretty talented."

Kidman said they play kickball together, clean the playroom, and play board games. He said, "Sometimes we see which is better, hands or feet."

Hammond's niece, Amber, when she was 4, said her prayers one night and Hammond overheard her.

She asked God to please take her arms away so she could be just like her Aunt Liz.




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