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Nigerian teen getting new hands in Riverside after machete attack

Ruth Idowu, 19, lost her arms in a machete attack in Nigeria. In this photo from Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, she learns to write using her artificial limbs.

November 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Writing a single sentence is a simple task for most people. For Ruth Idowu, it requires a series of adjustments to put pen to paper.

Two years ago, the 19-year-old lost her hands after a man wielding a machete attacked her at her family's restaurant in Nigeria.

"When I fell down, he used the machete to cut my neck," she said. "I used my hands to cover my neck and he cut my hands."

The teen not only lost her hands, but also her independence. She would later meet Tunde Akinermi and his wife, Titi. The couple from Colton founded Tunde and Friends Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to helping the disabled in Africa.

"We saw that this would be almost impossible - in fact, impossible in Nigeria," Akinermi said, "so we came back here and mentioned it to our friends."

As word spread, it set in motion a series of events that led Idowu to prosthetist Mike Openshaw of Johnson's Orthopedic in Riverside. Openshaw and his company are helping to restore the teen's independence with prosthetic arms, free of charge.

"We're doing a conventional type prosthetic that could be field serviceable when she goes back to her country, and it could be fixed with parts and pieces that could be found there or mailed to her," Openshaw said.

Since then, Idowu has undergone several fittings. For now, she's using a diagnostic set of arms to help her get ready for permanent ones.

"It helps me to write," she said. "I can feed myself now, and to brush my teeth. It helps me to do everything."

With her newfound independence, the shy teen with a quick smile is also learning to come out of her shell.

"It has changed the person she is," Titi Akinermi said. "You can see she is more alive."