If you don’t fall in love with 11-year-old Tilly Lockey, then you truly have a heart made of stone. This plucky youngster has dedicated a great deal of her time to traveling the world and raising awareness of the complications associated with meningitis. She is dedicated to this cause because the disease is the reason that she lost both of her hands when she was 17 months old. She nearly lost more than her hands to the disease, which can claim the lives of those it afflicts. And so, while counting herself among the lucky, her positive attitude makes her the ideal assistant to help figure out what would make up the ideal prosthetic arm for an active child. This video from Chronicle Live exemplifies this attitude:

Part of her efforts to spread awareness are also tied up in her efforts to raise the funds necessary to obtain the prosthetics, which can cost upwards of $25,000 a set. The latest round of prosthetics she has been testing come by way of a company called Open Bionics and Tilly thinks of them less as a crutch and more as a tool for superheroes, explaining:

“When I first started using these hands they were basically just these little hooks and you used them like a puppet to make them move. Now I’m working with a company called Open Bionics and they have made me a superhero arm – you can do these great poses with them. You can give a thumbs up. It is really cool. Personally, I like looking like a superhero. I like looking unique.”

mmr_nec_121016tilly2The superhero arms, created using 3D printing technology, aren’t ready to come out of the lab just yet and be used in Tilly’s everyday life, but her feedback is vital in making that future possibility into a reality. Open Bionics has been behind several impressive advances in 3D printed prosthetics we have been following for some time. Her mother Sarah is eagerly looking forward to the day when Tilly can have the prosthetics full time, and fully supports the little girls role in the process of development, saying:

“When she is wearing them she tells the scientists if it is too hot, if it is digging into her arm…If she is asking for them to be taken off regularly it probably means they are too heavy. It is really helping them – they need to work, with the kids who are going to be wearing them. They can’t feel how it works and how it’s used by an 11-year-old. That is where Tilly comes in.”

jmr_nec_141016tilly_01jpgWith our without the prosthetics, Tilly has a spirit that has allowed her to overcome the loss of her hands and a belief in her abilities to not just function, but excel. In her words, “You can start off as a little girl with no hands, but if you put your mind to it you can do anything.” At which point I have to stop writing for a moment, because my screen has gone all blurry.

It’s not only Tilly but her entire family who sees her experience as not only something that she can overcome, but the possibility it provides to help others. Her mother remembers when her daughter was in the ambulance, fighting for her life:

“I felt so helpless, like there was nothing I could do to stop this. They were cutting her clothes off her, putting tubes in and a consultant sat me down and said, ‘I think you better sit down, it looks very severe and your daughter looks likely to die.’ When she pulled through, we knew she had survived for a reason – when she was given no chance of survival and she lived and that must be for a reason. If we can help just one other child, we have done our job.”

I think it is more than cool looking prosthetic arms that make this little girl into a superhero. Discuss in the 3D Printed Superhero Prosthetics forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Images/Video: Chronicle Live]
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