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Patient Stories

A Girl, a Bike and a Dream

Gillette patient Ruth Evelyn at playground

Ruth-Evelyn (you can call her “RE” for short) is 5 years old and a ball of energy.  She loves roller coasters, dancing, gymnastics, Disney princesses and coloring. On a sunny August afternoon, RE shrieks with delight as she flies, fearless, down the slides at her neighborhood park.

You might have noticed something else about RE, too. RE was born missing her arms. Meet her, and you’ll see that she’s adapted remarkably. She makes iPad videos, eats her meals, gives high-fives and creates artwork—all using her feet.

Gillette Children's patient Ruth Evelyn, born without arms uses her feet to color a picture
A close up of Gillette Children's patient Ruth Evelyn's feet as she uses them to color instead of arms.

Fabricating a Dream

But there’s one thing RE hadn’t done yet.  She dreamed of riding a two-wheel bike.

RE’s mom, Karlyn Pranke, is a firm believer that anything’s possible for her daughter. She says that RE’s been defying the odds since her birth on April 19, 2012, a full nine weeks ahead of her due date. “There’s no ‘can’t’ in her vocabulary,” says Karlyn. “She wants to ride a bike, so we’ll figure out a way that she can.”

So, RE’s family turned to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, where RE’s received care since age 1. Her prosthetist, Michelle Hall, got right to work.

The result? A custom-made device that rests against RE’s shoulders and connects to her bicycle’s handlebars, helping her steer safely and confidently. It’s purple, and features images of a ballerina and a dolphin—all per RE’s request.

Ruth Evelyn CAN Ride

Before RE brought her new device home, there was an important stop to make: Walmart, where Karlyn purchased her daughter a hot-pink bike, as girly as can be, and a pink helmet to match. Then, it was on to Gillette for a final fitting and adjustments with Michelle.

Later that day, RE and Karlyn pulled into the parking lot of Wentworth Park in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, near their home. Karlyn strapped on RE’s helmet and fastened the device to her daughter’s chest and bicycle. She cautioned her to go slow, as any right-minded parent would do.

Any parent. Any kid. Today, here at the park, they are exactly that—just as it should be. “I want her to be as typical as anybody else,” says Karlyn. I want to make it as easy as it can be, but challenge her a bit too. She’s one of those perfectionist kids.”

RE’s concentrating hard, but her exclamation to her mom says it all: “I’m getting the hang of it!” 

(Note: Discover more about RE's story on KSTP-TV

Gillette patient Ruth Evelyn (RE) who was born without arms rides her bike

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