Bionic hand is a life-changer for Hull amputee
RSLSteeper has transformed the life of one of its patients, Mike Swainger, after fitting him with the new bebionic3 hand.
On 16 June 1992, when he was just 13, Mike was struck by a train when playing with friends on some waste ground. Lying fully conscious by the trackside for 45 minutes before medical support arrived, he was fully aware that the arm and leg that rested on the ballast a few feet away, were his own.
Now Mike, who promotes Paralympic sport in schools and is working with Hull FC to establish a wheelchair rugby league team, hopes that his experience will be an inspiration to others. Mike, who lives in Sutton Park, Hull, said:
“I remember waking up in intensive care, looking down and realising that my life had changed for good. I was in quite a dark place for some time and really struggled with the various options that were around. The functionality of the prosthetic limbs was a frustration and the fact that I was very young meant that I needed more and more adaptations to match my growth. I suppose I was looking for a solution that just didn’t exist so it was very difficult.”
A major turning point was when Michael’s partner, Claire, gave birth to the pair’s first child, Billy. Mike worked hard with the medical specialists to ensure that he could do all the ‘Dad’ things with his son. However, he was still frustrated by the limiting technology that was available for his artificial arm:
“I tried a number of different arms over a period of 19 years and all were quite frustrating – The grip was generally weak and they never felt like a part of me. There was also the option for a split-hook hand but that just didn’t resemble a hand in any way. The only option was to re-learn all the everyday tasks with my left hand.
“I knew the technology was out there and became increasingly aware of the bebionic hand. I knew it was a long shot but I contacted the manufacturers, RSLSteeper, and effectively offered to be a UK test case. I also approached the Hull Artificial Limb Centre who knew all about it. I knew what an incredible impact this would have and was desperate for a break.”
That break came just six months’ ago, when Mike received RSLSteeper’s bebionic hand through the NHS. Now, using the most advanced bebionic3 with its ‘‘Terminator-style” appearance, he can complete all sorts of tasks, as he explains:
“Having a bebionic hand is a complete life-changer. I can go fishing, try new sports like archery and shooting, and perform everyday tasks that people consider mundane, such as tying shoe laces, opening a pack of crisps, or shaking hands.
“It has changed my life immeasurably. Having a bionic hand that actually works like a real hand is such a confidence booster. It encourages you to take on different tasks and is a great icebreaker. I’ve heard little kids in the street saying, ‘Look, it’s a robot! The best thing was when my youngest child, Jodie, held the bionic hand in the street without batting an eyelid. I am extremely grateful to the NHS and RSLSteeper.
Now living with his partner, Claire, and three children, Billy (17), Ellie (15), and Jodie (6), Mike wants to play his part in helping those going through similar circumstances:
“Being an amputee can be so daunting and accepting the disability is often the toughest thing. I’ve experienced many highs and lows and want to make that experience available to as many people as possible.”
Paul Steeper, Managing Director, Products Division at RSLSteeper, said:
“bebionic3 is already revolutionising the lives of amputees from across the world and people like Mike truly help in that development. Thanks to people like him, we are able to make constant improvements to a design that is already the world’s most advanced myo-electric hand, making it stronger, more precise and easier to programme.
“The new hand is helping Mike to tackle real-life, everyday situations, and provides the perfect balance between advanced technology, functionality and aesthetics. Mike has taken to his new prosthesis incredibly well, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with him over the coming years.”
The new bebionic3 hand features a lifelike appearance and naturally compliant grip patterns which can be wirelessly programmed and tailored to suit each individual user’s requirements, alongside customisable grip speed, patterns and strength. To make the hands look as natural as possible, they can be covered with a realistic silicone skin, available in 19 different skin shades or a futuristic jet black. Boasting industry-leading functionality, bebionic is designed to offer amputees a stronger, more accurate and more affordable alternative to other myo-electric hands.
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