How One Woman Sees Her Disability as a Blessing
Feb 24, 2021
Sutter Health
Girl and woman without a right hand

This is part of a series celebrating those individuals who define themselves by what they can do, not what they can’t do.

Kiren Rizvi Jafry is the area operations executive for Sutter Bay Medical Foundation in the San Francisco and Marin region. In her own words, she describes her experience with ability issues.

I was born without a right hand and forearm. My limb difference was not obvious to me until I started going to school and became known as the “one-arm girl.” My classmates were not always the nicest about it. What made things even more complicated was that I was a lefty in a predominantly right-handed world.

I had to learn to be adaptive and self-directed when figuring out day-to-day life skills. For example, I taught myself how to tie shoelaces, how to tie my hair and how to cut fruits and vegetables. Long-sleeve clothing helped me when trying to wrap my arms around large objects. I also discovered that my shorter arm served as a great base to balance and carry multiple items at once.

Smudges on the side of my hand in spiral notebooks were a daily struggle. Using normal scissors never made cutting paper easy. Cameras and video game devices were also not easy to use, so I improvised.

Despite these everyday issues, I embraced the physical challenges and continued to test my limit to be the best that I could be. In middle school, I was one of the fastest typists in my class. In band, I was first chair trumpet for many years. Each new challenge required me to be creative and comfortable paving my own path.

A strong and constant support network was critical to my development. I certainly could not do it alone. My family and friends gave me confidence when I needed it most and unconditional love when I was down. They were ready to offer a hand, literally and figuratively, when I needed assistance.

Awareness and Visibility

I’m excited that there is more awareness and visibility around limb differences today. This makes me hopeful for the future, especially as we celebrate diversity and other “humans of ability.” I am a big fan of linebacker Shaquem Griffin of the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and defender Carson Picket in women’s professional soccer. Disney’s Nemo, the fish with a “lucky” fin, is the relatable character I had waited years to see on the big screen. I have also discovered an online community of fellow one-handed individuals. I go to their blogs and tweets whenever I run up against a wall or need a little humor to start my day.

Having one arm has truly been a blessing in my life. It has trained me to be resilient, to not take myself too seriously, to have the humility to ask for a hand when I need it, and to never see a problem as too difficult to solve.

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