Holiday Miracle – 3D Printed Myoelectric Arm Allows Girl to Hug Family for First Time on Thanksgiving

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Madelyn and her family.

Madelyn and her family.

Back in July, we covered a story about a little boy named Alex, who was the recipient of a 3D printed myoelectric arm. That arm gave him the chance to hug his mother for the very first time. This was made possible because of an organization called e-NABLE, a man named Albert Manero, and a group of volunteers from the University of Central Florida, called Limbitless Solutions Foundation.

Now, Manero and team have done it yet again. This time, they created a bit of a “Thanksgiving Miracle,” as Manero puts it. A little girl named Madelyn, who was born without a complete left arm, was in need of a prosthesis, so Manero and his group decided to use their spare time to create just that.

3D printing has been so successful in the prosthetic hand/arm space because of its ability to create 100% custom prostheses. On top of this, the affordability is almost unheard of, when compared to more traditional prosthetic hands and arms, which children typically don’t have much, if any, access to.

“We met Madelyn and her family in September and set out to make her a one of a kind, artistic finished arm,” Manero tells 3DPrint.com. “We had been working on new designs since Alex’s story—and working with a new designer in California who develops artistic 3D printed parts.”

So the team from the University of Central Florida decided to drive up to Virginia on the Tuesday prior to Thanksgiving. They arrived at Madelyn’s house on Wednesday, after only getting very little sleep, and spent the day fitting her new arm, and teaching her family the process and maintenance procedures required. “The team also was able to teach STEM principles to Madelyn, her younger sister, and a few other friends,” Manero tells us. “Since meeting us in September, Olivia (younger sister) has been so excited to learn about science in school at home!).”

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While we have seen many 3D printed prosthetic hands in the past, this Limbitless version is myoelectric, meaning that it responds to contractions in Madelyn’s muscle, and then reacts appropriately. For example, a contraction of the bicep muscle may tell the hand to grab an object.

IMG_1372After fitting Madelyn with her new arm, and modifying it to work correctly, the team was able to drive home Wednesday night and make it home in time for Thanksgiving on Thursday. Madelyn was able to spend her first full day as a dual-armed little girl with her family on Thanksgiving.

“Madelyn was able to introduce her extended family to her new arm, hug them with both arms, and play with her cousins,” Manero tells us.

Hugs can be taken for granted, but this little girl was especially happy to finally be able to hug her family for the very first time. She was surely thankful for that, as was her mom.

“To finally find somebody that was so excited to make it for us, and it was going to be fast, and it was going to be easy. Well, easy on my end I should say,” said Bonnie Rebsamen, Madelyn’s mom, to ABC13, WSET.

Limbitless isn’t finished though. They plan on improving upon these 3D printed myoelectric arms and providing them to even more children in the future.

“I don’t know how to describe it. It’s fulfilling I guess. Very satisfying to do something that’s not in my job description, but I can help out to do something that’s good for everyone involved,” explained John Sparkman, a member of the Limbitless Solutions Foundation.

IMG_1375This goes to show that when you take a technology as innovative as 3D printing and then combine it with brilliant volunteers such as Manero and the rest of the group from the University of Central Florida, anything is possible. This includes allowing a child to experience the feeling of giving and receiving a real hug for the very first time. You can see more on this story in the video below. Also be sure to check out the additional photos below, provided by Manero. Let us know what you think about this 3D printed prosthetic arm forum thread on 3DPB.com.

[image source: Albert Manero]

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