Source: CVDaily Feed
Elise Wright was born without a left hand. Well, technically she was but most of it is microscopic. Her parents first discovered this at her 18 week ultrasound. Elise is eight years old now and has learned how to adapt without having the use of a fully developed left hand. She can tie her shoes, play basketball, play on the monkey bars and even spent three months learning how to jump rope. Kids are amazing how they can adapt.
The Wright family thought they would continue to watch their quiet, yet beaming daughter go through life with only one hand. Until a neighbor friend saw an interview on a cable news channel one night last fall.
“Our neighbor, Alean Hunt, saw a program on CNN about the Helping Hand Project that prints 3D hands for kids,” says Holly Wright, Elise’s mother. “It’s really cheap and really simple.”
At the urging of their neighbor, Holly and her husband Cam emailed the director of the project Jeff Powell, a biomedical engineering student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Powell replied to the Wrights the same day and the process for creating a new hand for Elise began.
The Providence family sent pictures and measurements of their daughter’s hand and wrist. Now, six months later and in the same month as her eighth birthday, Elise has a new purple hand.
After creating a model on a computer with the measurements, Powell and his team of Master’s Degree students use a 3D printer to create each component of the hand and then assemble it. The total cost of the hand is a mere $70.
“I talked to one of my doctors,” Holly says, “and he said, ‘you’re at least $60,000 with that.’ And I said, ‘no, just $70.’ He couldn’t believe it! It’s a revolutionary thing.”
The hand uses a simple mechanism that is based on wrist movement.
“I just bend my wrist to close the fingers up,” Elise explains while demonstrating the hand, “then straighten it up to keep them open.”
“He ultimately wants to get these down to about $25 a piece, just for the materials to make it,” Cam says. “The concept is there, the concept on the computer is what takes the most amount of engineering. Once he hits print the printer will make the product.
“He wants to get it down to where you are just paying for material. Sizing could be scaled based on who needs it. They could make just a few adjustments on the program. If it were run over by a car, you could call them up, send your replacement for $20 instead of going to get fitted for another $60,000 prosthetic.”
Without a left hand, it has been difficult for Elise to apply breaks on her bike, play softball, or ever dream about playing the violin. Now all of that is possible.
“We thought about signing her up for softball this summer but trying to hold the bat was too much of a struggle,” says Holly. “So let’s do something that’s not that challenging. But now, who knows. She may be able to hold a bat, throw a baseball and catch it. I feel like her options are more open now.
“This is awesome for the very little bit of things, the three percent of things she tries that she can’t do,” says Holly.
Since receiving the hand, Elise has been shaking hands, waving, celebrating with high fives and acting extra thirsty so she can grab a drink of water. Cam says she has also been like a little vacuum picking up everything off the floor around the house.
“It’s really fun to use and you can do really awesome things with it,” Elise explains with a giant grin on her face.
The Wrights were not able to outright purchase the hand. The Helping Hand Project is a non-profit organization so the only way to get a hand is through donations.
“We raised $210 in seven minutes,” Holly says. “A lot of our family had already known so it happened quickly. It was cool, they had a picture of her on her own little website. We had enough in her account so they made her two, one that she can go grow into.”
The Wrights are happy for their daughter to have this new option, but they don’t want her to rely on it.
“She was doing fine without it,” Holly says, “so let’s just use it for the times that she needs it.”
The Wrights say there are numerous children with similar conditions as their daughter and see this as something that can bring a lot of hope and relief to thousands of people around the world.
“You think about kids who have no hands,” Holly says. “She has one hand and can do so much. Kids with no hands, this would be incredible. I think that was exciting to see how they are trying to help kids who don’t have another option.”
“I think if anyone is in need of it and they want to talk to her, or talk to us, or come over and see it we would love to help whatever we can to make it easier for them,” Cam offers. “At first we were glad our neighbor spearheaded it and got it going for us.”
To learn more about the Helping Hand Project, or to donate so other children can receive a 3D hand of their own, visit empowered.org/Helping-Hand-Project