AMS Spring 2023

Massachusetts Librarian Lends Guatemalan Burn Victim a 3D Printed Helping Hand

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Librarian Builds HandWelmer Cordova was horribly burned in a gas explosion in Guatemala. The explosion killed two of Cordova’s sisters, and now at 20 years old, he was preparing to deal with his 30th surgery at Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston.

At just 6 years of age, Cordova survived the explosion in Llano Largo. It badly injured another sister and left young Welmer both disfigured and partially disabled.

“A cylinder of gas exploded and there was no way out of the house. It burned everything. I was in the hospital in Guatemala for a month,” Cordova said of the ordeal [translated from Spanish]. “Later I came here to the United States and the Shriners Hospital for eight months.”

He’s required skin grafts and other treatments every year since that terrible day, and the blast cost Cordova part of his right hand.

newton libraryEnter John Walsh, a Newton, Massachusetts, librarian with extensive experience in training people in new technologies, among them, 3D printing and design. The Newton Free Library where Walsh works also has a 3D printer which the staff there use to teach kids about 3DP. Walsh was made aware of Cordova’s case as he discussed a model of a hand he had once printed with Hospitality Homes supporter Brenda Caplan, who has housed Cordova on his last two trips to Boston. The pieces of the story came together from there.

It’s one of the major success stories of 3D printing that designers and technicians around the world have developed a wide variety of “robo hands” to help those in need, and Walsh familiarized himself with prosthetic hand technologies researching e-NABLE.

It took Walsh three attempts to get the prostheses sized correctly to fit remaining portions of Cordova’s right ring and index fingers. The project took just 30 minutes to tweak the design, and another three hours to print with the library’s MakerBot Replicator 2X.

“It’s fully functional,” Walsh says. “He just moves the stumps and the hanLibrarian Builds 3d printed Handd opens and closes. All told, it cost about $11 in materials and if I had to do it again, I could probably knock it out in about a week. The first one is always the hardest.”

The finished device is a wrist brace with a plastic plate attached, and extensions fit over the stubs of the fingers on Cordova’s right hand. The fingers are controlled by strategically place elastic and pieces of fishing line.

“Think about it: we have this amazing machine and you can use it to make the world a better place,” Walsh said to Wicked Local. “If I can use the big, noisy box on my desk to improve this guy’s life dramatically, I’m pretty sure I should do it.”

Cordova and Walsh

John Walsh, left, and Welmer Cordova

“He can give me a high five. I knew it was great when he took a picture and sent it to his mom and dad,” Walsh told NECN. “I went, ‘That’s – that’s the moment.”

What do you think of this effort by a librarian in Massachusetts to help out a young man in need of a prosthetic hand? Let us know in the Librarian Delivers a Helping Hand forum thread on 3DPB.com.

 

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