In the summer of 2017, Julia Soares, a 30-year-old police officer in North Carolina, embarked on a routine day serving her city. Little did she know that her life would take a dramatic turn by lunchtime. A seemingly ordinary procedure turned into a terrifying encounter when a large, aggressive dog knocked Julia to the ground. She managed to fend off the dog, but not without a cost—Julia lost her right thumb in the struggle.
Despite losing 40% of her hand’s function, Julia tried to find healing in humor by naming her remaining digit ‘Sparky” for its tail-wagging appearance. But, even with the support of her family and fellow officers, Julia felt incomplete.
Learning about Naked Prosthetics
At the height of her rehabilitation, with the guidance of her occupational therapist (OT) at OrthoCarolina, Julia saw a glimmer of positivity. Her OT introduced her to Naked Prosthetics and showed her the ThumbDriver.
Julia recalls, “This was a very traumatic time in my life. I had no idea there were functional prostheses for thumbs.” Although the new technology raised skepticism even from her doctor, he eventually prescribed a custom Naked Prosthetics ThumbDriver.
The First Day
Securing approval for an upper-limb prosthetic device wasn’t straightforward. Julia faced challenges, but her determination and advocacy, along with support from her care team and NP’s Customer Experience Team, ensured the insurance process moved forward efficiently. Julia experienced a hopeful shift in her journey when her insurance approved the prosthesis.
After a few months of therapy and healing, the day finally came for Julia to receive her device, a ThumbDriver that was custom-designed and fabricated to her exact specifications. Although nervous at first, the moment Julia put on the device, she knew her life was about to change. Julia fondly remembers that life-altering moment:
“The first time I put it on, it was a part of me. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it. I had this huge water bottle full of water, and I could just grab it. For the first time, I could hold it.”
The day continued to unfold with more positive and uplifting moments. That same afternoon, Julia went to the gym and sent us a video of herself bouncing and catching a ball. And after her workout, she went to a restaurant and held a burrito securely with her affected hand for the first time since her accident.
Regaining What She Lost
With assistance from her ThumbDriver, Julia slowly resumed her daily activities. This includes tasks like buttoning her shirt, holding a cup of coffee, and chopping vegetables. Most importantly, the device helped her return to the job that matters to her.
Julia has even affectionately named her prosthetic thumb “Sparkinator,” in homage to her remaining digit, and to acknowledge its high-tech appearance. Beyond the recovered functionality, the device alleviated her phantom sensations and granted her a natural range of movement crucial to her duties as a police officer. “As soon as I put it on, I automatically know how to use it. It’s like my brain is connected to it without any battery or wires,” Julia says. “When I’ve tried firing my gun without my ThumbDriver, it felt very unsteady and unsecured.” The connection Julia feels to her prosthesis is a shared experience within the community of NP device wearers.
For users like Julia, an NP device is more than a functional tool; it’s a key to self-confidence. Julia sums it up, saying, “With a Naked Prosthetics device, it not only changes the way you live, but it also changes your mental and emotional state. It has given me the boost of confidence I needed.”
Change in Perspective + Facing Her Fears
“The day I lost my finger was the best and worst day of my life. That event changed who I am. I feel like I’m a better person. A more empathetic and giving person.”
Seven years have passed since Julia’s accident and the path to her current situation hasn’t been without its challenges. Having undergone the process, Julia emerged stronger than ever. Whenever people reach out to her for advice, her response is always to take it one day at a time. She continues to live by this statement as she actively works on one of the biggest invisible hurdles—her fear of dogs.
In 2020, Julia reached a significant milestone in her journey. She and her wife, Karen, made the decision to welcome a dog into their lives, naming her Kody Jane. Julia’s remarkable ability to adapt, grow, and overcome inspires us. Her story is a powerful reminder that recovery is not a destination, but a lifelong process.