3D printing technology has been used to make a difference all over the world, including developing countries like the Dominican Republic. Hundreds of Dominicans who work in the country’s sugar cane fields lose limbs every year because of machete accidents. According to the World Health Organization, there are roughly 40 million amputees in the country, but only about 5% are able to get assistance or prosthetic devices. Without necessary prosthetic limbs, it’s very difficult for these people to remain healthy, continue working, receive an education, or even just be socially accepted. The Portland Rotary Club in Maine teamed up with heartwarming volunteer network e-NABLE to use 3D printing technology to do something about this.
The main objective of the Rotary organization is service, and over 1.2 million Rotarians, from more than 160 countries, belong to 30,000-plus Rotary clubs. Portland Rotary has been working to serve people in the Dominican Republic since 2001, and soon after established its main international project, the 3H Program: Hearing, Hands & H20, which provides hearing aids, prosthetic limbs, and water filters to residents of rural villages. Since the program got its start, 1,971 hearing aids have been fit, over 250 prosthetic hands have been provided, and more than 500 water filters have been installed.
The Portland Rotary and its partners have made nearly 20 trips to the Dominican Republic since the program began; one of these partners is e-NABLE. The network has provided 3D printed prosthetic limbs to countries all over the world, from Ghana, Chile, and Indonesia to Turkey, Uganda, and South Africa, and now the Dominican Republic. e-NABLE hasn’t always been a Portland Rotary collaborator – until recently, the organization was using a functional, one-size-fits-all LN-4 prosthetic. But as we all know, 3D printing allows for customization, so the Portland Rotary decided to look into harnessing the technology. The Portland Rotary determined that a better, more customized prosthetic option was needed, and asked another Maine resident, e-NABLE volunteer Dean Rock, to help them use 3D printing technology to deliver better prosthetics to Dominican amputees. Rock was more than happy to offer up his SeeMeCNC ORION Delta 3D printer, which he is now using to print out monofilament prosthetic hands. The Unlimbited tendon hands are a much better option than the LN-4 prosthetics: they are more realistic looking, and they’re adaptable as well, to fit the needs of each person who receives one.
John Curran, Senior Director of Development at Maine Medical Center and Portland Rotarian, said, “It is incredibly powerful to get to know these patients and help impact their lives. It’s one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.”
Rock said, “It’s a magical moment seeing someone receive the [new] hands because they realize what they can now do.”
18 Rotarians from Portland recently traveled to the Dominican Republic for a one-week humanitarian trip. According to the organization’s Facebook page, in addition to delivering more water filters, hearing aids, and 3D printed prosthetic limbs, they also completed basic training for some local Dominican nurses. The nurses can now perform basic hearing tests on patients, email the results to the Portland Rotary, and a programmed hearing aid will be delivered to volunteers on site. Then, via an Internet video connection, the nurses will fit the hearing aids with supplies and earmolds left by the Portland Rotary. This frees up time on the next rotary trip for more challenging cases.
“John was able to provide me with photos and measurements that allowed me to choose particular fittings for each client,” Rock explained in an e-NABLE guest post. “In the course of building them, I relied on advice from some other e-NABLE folks another e-NABLE volunteer, John Diamond, actually helped by making some forearms that were bigger than my machine. Then, my wife suggested that I go help deliver them to the DR. So I did. Our team consisted of John Curran, me, Ricardo from West Palm, FL (translator) and Roger and Elizabeth Fagan who were making their 19th trip to fit hearing aids.”
“Although it is not yet practical to train the Dominican clinicians to use 3d printing to make their own devices, the current system is working well,” Rock said following the trip.
Discuss in the 3D Printed Prosthetics forum at 3DPB.com.