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Letters from fifth-graders convince Johns Hopkins surgeon to create prosthetic hand for teacher

Image caption: Surrounded by her former fourth graders, Patti Anderson raises her hand after being presented with a prosthetic made using a 3-D printer by Dr. Albert Chi

Image credit: Kristen Miller/Johns Hopkins Medicine

The North Pole is a common post mark for children's letters this time of year. But a fifth grade class from Allentown, Pa., sent its wish list to a different destination—East Baltimore—with high hopes to help a former teacher.

According to the Morning Call, fifth-graders at Western Salisbury Elementary School recently sent handwritten letters to Albert Chi, an assistant professor of surgery in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, asking the trauma surgeon to make one of his pioneering, low-cost prosthetic hands for their former fourth-grade teacher.

Chi and his 3-D printer came through in style, producing a prosthetic hand with a zebra print for Patti Anderson, who has had the use of only one hand since an accident when she was teenager. Anderson and the students traveled to Johns Hopkins Hospital on Thursday so Anderson could be fitted with her new hand, and so Chi could show the students around Johns Hopkins.

Chi told the Morning Call, "Receiving those letters has to be one of the highlights of my entire career." Though Chi said he's busy as he prepares to deploy as a naval reservist next month, the students' letters had such a profound effect on him that he rearranged his schedule.

He said the whole office gathered around and took turns reading the letters aloud, and they concluded, "We have to make this happen, we have to build this hand for this teacher, we have to do this for these kids. The letters brought such joy to us."