Prosthetic hand in works for graduated Thomas Jefferson softball player | TribLIVE.com
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Prosthetic hand in works for graduated Thomas Jefferson softball player

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Thomas Jefferson’s Haleigh Karcher competes during the 2019 season.
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Haleigh Karcher, 18, poses for a photo at her high school graduation party. Karcher was just days away from graduation when she lost the top of her pinky, most of her ring finger and all of her middle and index fingers on her left hand in a rope swing accident. Karcher was to play softball at West Chester University.

Haleigh Karcher was three days away from graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School when she was swinging across Peters Creek on a rope.

The standout high school softball catcher’s hand got caught on the rope, severing three and half fingers on her glove hand.

Karcher, 18, was to play softball at West Chester University of Pennsylvania later that fall. But on June 3, that dream of collegiate softball seemed in jeopardy.

“It was gut-wrenching,” said Heidi Karcher, Haleigh’s mother. “For 11 years we were basically, I don’t want to say training, but for 11 years we were preparing for her collegiate softball career, and literally within seconds, your whole world changes upside down.”

Haleigh Karcher stayed committed. Three days after the accident, she started to train for her first season at West Chester. She worked to make her remaining fingers stronger. The accident severed the top of her pinky, most of her ring finger and all of her middle and index fingers on her left hand.

Eventually, she could make a fist and wiggle every knuckle, a feat not everyone can do.

Since the accident, Karcher has played in a scrimmage at West Chester and will play in three weekends of preseason doubleheaders in October as a catcher, first base and third base. The university’s season starts in the spring.

“Mentally and emotionally, it is the most challenging,” Karcher said. “Being an athlete, you develop a mindset that you can keep pushing yourself and shake the pain. But in my case, you cannot shake off an injury like this because it is my life now from now on.”

Diane Lokey, the softball coach at West Chester, said Karcher’s injury has made her train harder. She hit the weight room to improve her overall strength, Lokey said.

“I think that she has a great spirit, and she has been working really hard,” said Lokey. “Obviously, there are some limitations, and everything is new for her. We are just working through all of those limitations and figuring out what she can do until she gets her prosthetic hand.”

Karcher knew she wanted to continue playing softball and sought out a prosthetic hand. She went through three different facilities before she found someone who could build her a prosthetic designed for athletes.

“One had said, ‘You’ll never be able to play again,’” Karcher said. “Then, the other one had said they would make something, and then we went to use them, and it completely backfired.”

After a suggestion from one of Karcher’s coaches, she found Arm Dynamics in Philadelphia. Arm Dynamics is an orthopedic and prosthetic clinic that specializes in athletics. The new hand will be custom made for Karcher.

“It goes off of the size, of how much you have left, how much you can move it, and what you want. So each one is completely different and made completely different,” Karcher said. “I have one that is completely steel that they are making me.”

Karcher’s prosthetic will be a custom-made hand suitable for both softball and her future nursing career. Karcher is studying to become a nurse. It will consist of three different fingers that move individually and one that will be completely steel and positioned in place rather than moveable.

Karcher is hoping to have her new hand by December. It could cost a minimum of $20,000 because it is out of network for her insurance, Karcher said. A GoFundMe page started to help raise money for the new hand has surpassed its $15,000 goal.

Haleigh and Heidi Karcher have said the support they received has been incredible. The support reminds Haleigh Karcher that she will be fine in the future.

“I always felt really good,” said Haleigh Karcher. “I always tweet out all the time. I’m really thankful for the support people back home have given me because I’m not going to lie to you, it is not easy.”

Briana Lewis is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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