If you’ve had any access to social media over the holiday season, you are probably familiar with the story of Safyre Terry of Schenectady, NY–a young girl who at the tender age of five was the victim of a catastrophic fire caused by arson. Not only was she badly burned, but she lost her father and three siblings. While she did survive, it has certainly not been without overwhelming challenge for the steadfast and cheerful child, who suffered burns over 75% of her body. Hospitalized for 10 months, and with over 50 surgeries, she eventually had both her right hand and left foot amputated.
Her story indeed has captivated people all over the world, and as many sent out Christmas cards this year, they put the now eight-year-old Safyre on their list too–allowing her to receive an outpouring of cards from all over the world to fill up a metal card holder purchased by her guardian, Aunt Liz Dolder. She even received one very special card from President Obama and his family.
“When the President and I heard your story, we wanted to be sure you had a White House holiday card to add to your collection,” Michelle Obama wrote in the letter. “You sound like such a brave girl and you have inspired so many people around the world, including Barack and me.”
And while this amazing and brave little girl loves Christmas cards and was the recipient of over 14,000 of them, she also received another surprising and enormously helpful gift: a 3D printed robotic hand.
Created by students at UAlbany, and in coordination with e-NABLE, this robotic hand has been in the works for quite some time now. Engineering and Applied Sciences students and faculty at UAlbany were behind the construction of the hand, which took months to complete. Safyre had her first fitting just before Christmas and is adjusting to it wonderfully, according to the design team who met with her and was able to see her immediate comfort with the prosthetic in person.
“It was great to see her face, she lit up, I was really surprised how quickly she was able to start picking things up and high-fiving people so it was really something else to be able to see that direct impact,” says Jonathan Muckell, a UAlbany professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences, who explained how inspiring it was for the students to watch as well. “That brief clip of seeing her pick something up, the impact that has on the students…it’s a great learning experience seeing how technology is coming together to actually help people,” he adds.
This development came about as Safyre’s family saw a story regarding the UAlbany team and their work fitting four other children in the US who were in need of prosthetic hands. The team became involved soon after learning about the work e-NABLE was performing upon meeting with their representatives at the World Maker Faire in New York. Safyre’s family contacted the engineering department when she heard about their successes, and the rest was history.
What makes the case even more special is that Safyre is local to the Albany area, so the UAlbany team can check up on her often, and even tweak or make refinements to the prosthetic as required or as they come up with new features.
“We want to hear what’s working well for Safyre and what’s not, that’ll help us share back with the e-NABLE community, the community of volunteers behind this project, to learn how to improve the design for future children as well as Sa’fyre,” Muckell says, also stating that Safyre has been thinking of different applications she’d like to use with the prosthetic. “Immediately, she’s talking about how she’d want to be able to write with it, that’s something we already started thinking about, how can we tweak something, add a part, make it a custom fit to hold a pen.”
The hand has certainly been welcome, as Safyre’s Facebook page has shown.
“You should have seen her face when they presented her with the first generation 3D printed hand,” her aunt wrote on the page on December 22nd, when the students from UAlbany presented Safyre with the hand. “Priceless. Saf took to it right away. She even picked up a cup the within a hour of having it. They have to tweak it a bit. But she should have it back in a few days.”
While the UAlbany team is doing an incredible service to kids in need, this is also one more inspirational example of the work e-NABLE continues to encourage as they collaborate with teams around the world. Founded in 2013, they’ve expanded to a network of 7,000 makers already, all dedicated to helping to better the quality of lives around the world for those in need of replacement limbs, with around 2000 prosthetics having been made so far, going to recipients in 45 countries. We’ve been following recently as well as e-NABLE has added some new designs to their list, also, to include prosthetics such as the Osprey Hand and the Unlimbited Arm–just to name a couple. As word of their good will–and excellent work–continues to spread around the world, it should be a wonderful year for all involved in the world of 3D printed prosthetics. Discuss this incredible story in the 3D Printed Robotic Hand forum on 3DPB.com.