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    Who Says You Can’t?

    Charlotte Larcabal

    Michael does more with one arm than most do with two!

    When Michael Spencer was in elementary school, his teacher gave all the other students recorders to play, but she gave him only a bell. Though he was born missing part of his left arm, Michael didn’t see any reason he shouldn’t have a recorder too.

    “I can do it,” he said.

    He took the recorder and played by rolling his elbow up and down the notes.


    Now 15, Michael doesn’t seem to know what “can’t” means. He was born with a can-do attitude. He was also born with Amniotic Band Syndrome. Fibers from the amniotic sac in his mother’s womb wrapped around his limbs, amputating his left arm at the elbow.

    But only having one arm has never stopped Michael, especially when it comes to his love of sports and music.

    He started playing the piano “just for the fun of it” when he was three. Later, he saw his father and brothers playing the trumpet.

    “If they’re playing the trumpet, I’m playing the trumpet,” Michael said.

    And so he figured out how to play the trumpet.

    Young man playing baseball

    “I just [picked up] whatever sounded coolest,” he said.

    So far, that includes the harpsichord, trombone, recorder, clarinet, trumpet, piano, and cello. He also plays basketball, baseball, and lacrosse.

    “And I’m trying out for football next year. I decided on football because I figured, ‘Hey, could be cool.’”

    But can you really play instruments like the cello when you’re missing half of your left arm?

    Well, Michael asks, who says you can’t?

    Michael playing the cello

    He balances his cello over his knee, holds the bow with his right hand, and uses the funny bone on his left elbow to feel for the notes on the string.

    He says he finds it quite “humerus.”

    There’s no stopping Michael when it comes to service, either. He often shares his musical gifts at talent shows and in Church meetings.

    For his Eagle Scout project, Michael created and delivered 41 Halloween costumes for children at Primary Children’s Medical Center. There were even costumes for children in wheelchairs or who had just come out of surgery. And Sister Spencer says he pinned, cut, and sewed them—all “single-handedly.”

    Michael is a living reminder that determination, the right attitude, and a few humorous (humerus?) jokes can help you come out on top of any trial. Like Michael, you can do it.

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