A four-year-old Glengormley girl has been trialling a new prosthetic hand, thanks to the efforts of a group of US university students.
Lillie McGregor, who is due to start P1 at Carnmoney Primary School in September, was born with Amniotic Band Syndrome, which has left her unable to use the fingers of her left hand. But thanks to a group of students at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, who volunteer with international charitable organisation e-NABLE, she is now getting to grips with a new 3D printed hand.
Craig Kelly, a second year mechanical engineering student who helped produce the device, met with Lillie this week to give her the personalised Rapunzel-themed hand.
Speaking just 24 hours after Lillie received her new prosthetic, her mum Katrina said she was already getting used to the device.
“She’s wearing it already. It’s early days and I don’t know how effective it is going to be for Lillie as she has some use of her hand, with her thumb and a pincher grip, so it’s more of a trial to see how it goes,” she said.
Katrina first heard about e-NABLE after watching an item on TV show This Morning. She’s now keen to spread the word about the organisation and the help it can offer children with arm and hand problems.
“3D printed limbs are widely used in America and I want to raise awareness that they are available to children here. There are a lot of children who might get great benefit from them,” she continued. “They are a lot more cost-effective than the prosthetic limbs that are currently available through the NHS, and they also have better function as they have a grip, as opposed to just being cosmetic.”
Katrina, a member of the Prosthetic Forum NI, is grateful to the e-NABLE volunteers at UMass Lowell for their help, and she’s hoping to raise money for the organisation in the coming months.
The e-NABLE community is a global network of volunteers who use 3D printers to create free prosthetic hands and arms for those in need of an upper limb assistive device.
Craig, who helped start the e-NABLE chapter at his university, explained how he and his fellow students are trying to support the organisation’s aim of ‘Giving The World a Helping Hand’.
“Traditional prosthetics can cost around £7,000 and kids grow out of them in a few months. This prevents most people from pursuing prosthetics and once they become adults many decide not to pursue prosthetic devices. Our goal is to give these low cost hands to kids at no cost to the family,” he said. “This allows children to get introduced to the world of prosthetics as they grow up and can pursue it in the future. Since we 3D print the hands, every single one can be individually customised and sized to fit the individual child.”
Craig, who is staying with family while in Northern Ireland, said the meeting with Lillie had gone “very well”.
“The hand we made slipped on and fitted very well. Lillie was able to understand how to use it immediately and began picking up light toys around the house,” he said.
“The hands have their limits and don’t provide full functionality, but we will continue working on improving the hands over time to make them better and more functional.”