11-year-old quadruple amputee receives Star Wars bionic arm
An 11-year-old quadruple amputee has become the first person to receive an R2-D2 bionic arm.
Kye Vincent, from Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, began crowdfunding for the Star Wars-themed “hero arm” after losing four limbs to meningitis when he was just eight years old.
The infection took less than 24 hours to spread through his body, and doctors had to amputate both of his lower legs, his right hand and part of his left hand.
His mother, Cheryl Vincent, said: “They didn’t have much of a chance of saving his limbs. Kye said he wanted to be a bionic boy, so we started fundraising.
“Seeing Kye with a hand again was very, very emotional. I was full of pride, I could burst. I was so happy for him. From a very young age, he’s always loved Star Wars. And to have it on a prosthetic arm, it shows what he’s into.”
The arm is one of several hero arms manufactured by Bristol-based company Open Bionics.
The 3D-printed multi-grip arm is the only one of its kind available for children. Among the different choices are Disney and Marvel-themed arms, including Frozen and Iron Man.
Samantha Payne, co-founder of Open Bionics, told the PA news agency: “We wanted to show that people with a difference can be superheroes.
“There are no other multi-grip prosthetics available for children, and the ones that are can be quite ugly or impractical.”
She added that they were working with the NHS to make the limbs more widely available – they can currently only be secured through private treatment and funding.
“We are waiting for NHS England to update their out-of-date guidelines to give access to amputees in the UK this multi-grip technology that costs the same or less than current NHS myoelectric solutions,” she said.
The arm works using EMG sensors that detect muscle movements, and the hand is controlled by tensing the same muscles which are used to open and close a biological hand.
Growing children can be fitted for a normal prosthetic up to twice a year, however, the bionic arm has an adjustable size which means it can grow alongside the child.
Open Bionics also offers an insurance policy, with free refits for up to five years.
The company has provided bionic arms to children in the UK and US.
Curt Wainwright, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, bought an Iron Man arm for his 13-year-old son, Jonathan.
He told the PA news agency: “Normal prosthetics are more cosmetic. He wanted it to be of use to him. He was born without a hand, so he has become accustomed to using his nubbie. So at his age, he wanted it to be ‘useful’.”
He shared a video of his son using the arm to drink apple juice: “The look on his face is all you need to know.”
Joel Gibbard, co-founder and chief executive of Open Bionics, said: “We’re really grateful to Lucasfilm for allowing us to find inspiration from their incredible Star Wars characters which has helped us to empower children with limb differences.
“The R2-D2 covers for the Hero Arm are easy to take on and off, allowing children like Kye to accessorise their bionic arm to match their mood.
“The covers showcase that your uniqueness is your superpower and you shouldn’t feel like you have to hide your limb difference – instead you can show it off.”