Amidst being quite knowledgeable about the challenges that many others face, it’s only human to take many things for granted. From having good food on the dinner table every night to having the ‘roof over your head,’ it’s easy to bemoan a multitude of first-world problems we might imagine daily. But imagine losing a limb. While breaking an arm or a leg is bad enough, and being out of commission for a while seems nightmarish–what if your hand were gone altogether?
We are as used to having our hands as tools as we are used to breathing in air through our lungs. Now, imagine if you’d lost your hand at five. This was the case for a very young Chinese boy from the Wuhan, Hubei Province. If the trauma of falling into a fire pit wasn’t horrific enough, he was terribly injured and also lost his hand in the process.
The boy sustained burns over nearly half his body and unfortunately his hand had to be amputated. This happened over two years ago and has, of course, been a source of heartbreak for his family. This May, however, it looked as if some of the emotional anguish and guilt over the boy’s injuries might ease as they received a call from the Wuhan Third Hospital Burn Rehabilitation Center. The parents were informed that their son would become the first burn victim to receive a 3D printed prosthetic that would allow him to grasp again–and even ride a bike.
The 3D printed prosthetic was made through a project supervised by Professor Wei-guo Xei who took careful measurements, recorded data, and oversaw the 3D printing and assembly of the 3D printed hand, which is wrapped in an outer layer of fabric that looks like true skin color.
While it’s not a common occurrence, there are all too many children in the world in need of help via prosthetics after either being born without limbs or losing them due to accidents. We follow many stories of children whose lives are being changed due to the incredible innovations afforded by 3D printing, and mainly within prosthetics this is due to one, customization–and two, affordability. It’s hard to say which outweighs the other, as both are so significant.
While the strides being made in manufacturing due to 3D printing are enormous and very important, little seems to compare with the inspiration of seeing children being able to do many of the normal things they previously could not. To see them being made whole again (or as close to possible) and with such sincere joy on their faces transcends most other innovations. And, aside from convenience and ease, the prosthetic also eliminates muscle disuse atrophy.
The addition of the prosthetic for this young child in China has obviously been hugely successful, if the pictures are any indication. He will continue to acclimate to his prosthetic, and the medical professionals have reminded everyone that the youngster will still need a lot of positive reinforcement regarding the replacement hand as he gets used to it and time passes. Currently, everyone is just very happy to see the return of a little boy’s long-lost smile.
Discuss this remarkable story in the 3D Printed Hand forum thread on 3DPB.com.China News Service]