Secondary activity limbs give young amputees a brighter future

Starship patients who have undergone amputation have received a huge boost thanks to our amazing Five Star Partner Barfoot & Thompson who has committed to funding three years’ worth of secondary activity limbs.  

For young amputees, having access to an artificial limb which is designed specifically for sports and other physical activity can have a profoundly positive impact on their physical and emotional health and wellbeing.

“Physical activity and sports are well recognised as important factors in a young person’s development,” says Starship Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr Stewart Walsh. “Activity limbs open the door for young amputees to be active.”   

While primary prosthetic limbs enable everyday mobility, often they’re not able to be used for more strenuous activities like running, jumping, climbing and swimming. This is where having an additional secondary activity prosthetic comes in, enabling young amputees to participate in all sorts of things that may not have been otherwise accessible. The benefits are huge, including improved balance, range of motion and muscle growth, as well as greater self-esteem and social inclusion and reduced instances and duration of major depression.  

For Elliott and Duskie, who both received new blades recently – the impact speaks for itself.

“My blade’s really helped me keep fit and active at school and the gym,” says Rotorua teenager and meningococcal survivor Elliott. “It feels great, because this is the first time in a while that I’ve felt as if I have a normal leg again. I can do explosive movements like box jumps and handstand push ups.” 

When Elliott was just three years old meningococcal B nearly took his life. By the time he was nine, he had spent over 18-months of his life in hospital and had undergone over 100 surgeries, including multiple skin grafts and amputations to his toes, fingers and right leg.  

Not one to be held back, Elliott stayed as active as he could, discovering a love of the gym and CrossFit during the Covid-19 lockdowns. 

Last year he was fitted with a secondary activity limb – a new blade, which has helped him go from strength to strength and take part in competitions alongside his big brother, Angus. Now the pair have seen what his new blade can help Elliott do, they’ve set their sights on national and international CrossFit competitions.  

"The blade opens up so many more opportunities for him,” says Elliott’s mum Kushla. “It’s made a huge difference, not just for his CrossFit, but for everyday life.”  

Elliot v2- Limbs

“When she puts her blade on, she finds it easier to keep up with her friends. It’s made a huge difference and it’s really been a blessing for us,” says Duskie’s mum Danielle.  

Six-year-old Duskie was born with a condition called tibial hemimelia where part of her shin bone was missing. She had her first amputation at just 11-months of age.  

Until recently, she’s struggled to keep up with her friends and cousins while playing. Now with the help of her new blade, which is fitted with grips and springs, she can run, jump, skip, play and climb in ways she couldn’t before.  

“It makes me happy because it means I can do things that other kids can do,” says Duskie who is currently taking great joy in practising her handstands and cartwheels.  


Although, Duskie concedes, the new blade has come with a new set of challenges.  

“My friends think it’s really cool and everyone just wants to play with me every day, but I don’t have enough room for all of them.”  

“Barfoot & Thompson are committed to making a positive difference in our communities, and we are proud to support Starship patients through funding secondary activity limbs,” says Peter Thompson, Managing Director of Barfoot & Thompson. 

“Witnessing the transformative impact these limbs have on young amputees like Elliott and Duskie is truly inspiring. We have long standing associations with various sports and believe in the power of enabling physical activity and sports for all. We are certainly proud to play a part in enhancing the physical and emotional well-being of those who will be helped by this support." 

The Starship Foundation would also like to say a big thank you to Rano Community Trust who has come on board to provide critical funding for secondary activity limbs too.