An 11-month-old boy born with only one arm is one of Instagram’s youngest influencers with almost 7,000 followers. Adorable toddler Sean Heilimo has attracted a fan base of thousands of fans who can’t get enough of watching him grow up. Sean, from Toronto, Canada, has a congenital birth defect that means he was born without a left forearm and hand. A condition called amniotic band syndrome caused his lower arm to be suffocated by string-like amniotic bands in the womb, restricting blood flow and stunting its development. Ever since his birth in April last year Sean’s mum, Brianna, has kept an online diary of her son learning to live life as a normal baby with just one arm. And Sean might not know it yet, but he’s become one of Instagram’s youngest stars and a missing limb awareness advocate.
Stay-at-home mom, Brianna, said: ‘I started the Instagram page just before it was born and it is dedicated to him.
‘It’s about family life and an insight into what it’s like to be a mom of a baby with a limb disability. ‘I post about Sean’s milestones and how he overcomes challenges that most babies don’t have. Playing with toys, crawling and eating were all harder for Sean to pick up at first than for other kids his age. ‘But he’s a very happy child, which I think is what people like about him, and despite his arm he does live a very normal life. He has his own little ways and tricks to use his stump as another hand. ‘We have had so much support and lots of positive comments from people online, so that has been really comforting for me.
‘People do seem to be very interested to see how he is doing and I am surprised we have as many followers as we do. ‘I think people love to see his smile, he lights up everyone’s day with how he just gets on with life as normal.’ Brianna and her husband Jonathan, 27, a construction worker, found out their only child would be born disabled during a routine 20 week ultrasound scan. Sean’s left arm did not show up on the scan as normal and following further hospital tests, doctors confirmed Sean would be born without a fully formed left arm.
‘I found it really hard to take to begin with and my mind went into overdrive’, said Brianna, who is expecting a second child in September. ‘They said it happens randomly and can happen to anyone. Straight away I started to wonder how he would do things like ride a bike, drive or swim. ‘I started to panic that he wouldn’t be able to live a normal life.’ But after Sean was born and he started to hit early milestones, Brianna said she soon realized he will be able to live a ‘very happy and capable’ life. She added: ‘He adapted to living life with what he has pretty fast. ‘He can crawl but it’s more of an army crawl on his stomach than with his hands and knees. His stump is just a little too small for him to do that.
‘We’ve watched him grow up and have seen he can still do most things that any other kid can do, which has been really comforting for us. ‘He’s even started walking along the furniture and using his stump to help him. ‘If he’s playing with toys he’ll pick them up with his good arm and use his other one to help him grab things. ‘He knows exactly what he can and can’t do with it and does his best to use it how he can. He’s actually really clever with using it in smart ways.
‘Sean is very happy, bubbly and very curious so we couldn’t be happier with how he is doing.’ Part of Brianna’s motivation to keep an online diary of Sean growing up is to provide support to other families in a similar position as hers and show people that children with limb disabilities can live a ‘normal, happy life’.
Brianna said: ‘Many new followers are other moms in the same situation who have a limb difference themselves or they might know someone who grew up with a limb difference. ‘Sean is healthy and so incredibly happy and I makes me feel so very proud. ‘He’s our little miracle and people tell me he fills them with joy.’