Teen pianist tinkles ivories after unique hand surgery

Ten fingers and ten toes – it’s often a healthy reassurance for new parents welcoming a newborn.

But things were a bit different for one Michigan family.

Daisey Yu, 16, is a classical pianist. As her fingers expertly tinkle the ivories, those listening would never guess her hand is different than most.

“I honestly don’t think anyone notices at all,” said Daisey.

Daisey’s left hand formed differently in the womb – a cleft hand, along with other structural differences – were apparent when she was born.

“There was very little she could do with individual fingers,” said William Seitz, Jr. M.D., Daisey’s orthopedic surgeon at Cleveland Clinic. “The fingers were relatively webbed together; they were rotated and they really could not oppose very well to do fine prehension and grasping.”

Daisy’s parents researched options that ranged from doing nothing, to reconstructing her hand.

“I wanted Daisey to be like normal, you know, not too much limited body functions,” said Zhifeng Yu, Daisey’s father.

When Daisey was six months old, her parents brought her to Cleveland Clinic for three separate surgeries designed to make her hand more functional.

“We talked about, basically, ultimately creating a thumb and three fingered hand,” said Dr. Seitz.

Daisey naturally incorporated her reconstructed hand into daily activities and at the age of five, started piano lessons.

“The first time she used both hands to play the piano we were so thrilled,” said Xian Tao, Daisey’s mother. “She can play very complicated notes and very beautiful every time.”

Evidence of Daisey’s hard work is clear; but she said the real reward is achieving her goals, despite being different.

“Even without disabilities you should never give up on something that you love,” said Daisey. “For piano, sometimes songs are hard for me to learn, but I end up spending hours just to get it down, even though my left hand can be a hindrance sometimes.”

Daisey has big plans for the future – she hopes to go to medical school and become a surgeon one day.

Dr. Seitz said he has no doubt that would make an excellent, caring and innovative surgeon.

“The statistical incidence of a difference like Daisey’s is about one in every 25,000 live births, but you look at Daisey the person, and she’s one in a million.”