A schoolgirl has had her first ever bionic arm fitted after being born without a right hand.
Hollie Lownds, 11, was fitted with the ‘Iron Man’ themed bionic arm, which is worth £5,000, in September.
It will allow her to brush her hair, eat with a knife and fork and ride a bike for the first time, and she is particularly excited to open Christmas presents with two hands.
Hollie’s parents were told 20 weeks into the pregnancy that their daughter was missing her right hand because of a growth defect but the cause wasn’t clear to doctors.
Since she was born she hasn’t had a prosthetic arm and has tried to use the stump of her elbow joint to grasp things and open doors.
Hollie Lownds, 11, was left ‘speechless’ when she tried on her bionic arm (pictured) for the first time, paid for by an anonymous donor
Hollie was born without a right hand but doctors are unsure why
Hollie and father Steven Lownds said the Hero Arm has made her feel ‘complete’
Hollie, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, recalled the moment she received her Hero Arm: ‘I was speechless, I had no words. I was so happy and I finally felt complete.
‘It’s the missing piece of me and now I’ve finally got it.
‘It will mean so much to open my presents this year because when I was younger it was always tough. Getting the wrapping off was always a struggle and my family used to have to make the wrapping a bit loose so I could get it off.
‘I’ll be able to decorate the tree properly this year too. Christmas is going to be magical.’
Mr Lownds, 34, said: ‘She was a bit teary eyed when she first got it, it was an amazing moment, it’s made her complete.
‘Her new hand completes her and it’s just so wonderful to see Hollie come into herself and flourish.
‘It’ll give her a lot more independence. From eating a meal with a knife and fork to being able to use a skipping rope or tying her shoe laces, it’ll let be able to do so much more.
‘I think in lots of ways the new hand has let her be herself and do little things she couldn’t do before such as brushing her teeth, riding a bike and combing her hair.’
Mr Lownds discovered his daughter would be born without a right hand at the 20 week scan. He said doctors are still uncertain why.
Some babies are born without limbs due to a condition called amniotic band syndrome, where string-like fibres wrap around limbs in the womb, cutting off blood supply.
Mr Lownds said Hollie was forced to use her left hand for everything, which didn’t appear to come naturally to her.
He said: ‘As a baby she’d try to open doors with her right hand and do everything with her right hand.
Mr Lownds discovered his daughter would be born without a right hand at the 20 week scan. He said doctors are still uncertain why
Mr Lownds said Hollie will ‘flourish’ with her new arm which will allow her to do daily tasks
‘At school she had to learn how to write and do everything with her left hand from scratch.
‘She’s very independent. If you offered to help she’d refuse. She’s always been extremely stubborn and determined not to let anything hold her back.
‘If she had a knife in her left hand she’d put the fork in between her elbow and clench it and stick the fork into whatever she was trying to cut and use her elbow to cut it.
‘If you were playing with Lego she’d try and push the blocks in with her elbow. She couldn’t tie laces or skip.’
Hollie was used to life without a hand but it didn’t stop other schoolchildren from saying nasty comments.
Mr Lownds said: ‘Everywhere we went people would stare at her hand. Hollie would say it was just something she was born with.
‘At primary school there was an incident where she was picked on by a boy because she stood out
‘Kids say things without realising it’s hurtful.’
Hollie is still getting used to her arm since having it fitted in September. She is pictured with her brother, Callen, opening presents at home in Stoke-on-Trent
Hollie said: ‘I’ll be able to decorate the tree properly this year too’
Hollie has never used a prosthetic on the NHS. Most existing upper limb prostheses have limited functionality and don’t offer much dexterity.
Mr Lownds applied to Open Bionics to get a Hero Arm for Hollie, which is only available privately at the moment.
The Hero Arm contains electrodes which detect tiny electrical signals from the user’s muscles. These signals activate movements in the prosthetic.
Hollie was finally given the arm in September after an anonymous donor who had a relationship with Open Bionics offered to pay.
The cost of a 3D bionic arm from Open Bionic is not clear and varies according to individual clinics.
A spokeswoman for Open Bionics said they are ‘vastly cheaper’ than existing advanced alternatives that cost between £20,000 and £60,000 for one hand.
Mr Lownds said: ‘She picked the arm up in September so it hasn’t been that long.
‘She’s very proud of her hand and all her friends think it’s brilliant too.
‘She loves it but because she’s never really used her right hand her muscles weren’t used to it at first.
‘After an hour or so on her arm it can get quite tiring for her because she’s not used to using her right hand.
‘Being able to skip, ride a bike better, use a knife and fork properly though for her is amazing.’
Mr Lownds said it’s been the making of Hollie and that this Christmas she’ll finally be able to unwrap her presents and decorate the tree with her family.
He said: ‘It’ll make Christmas extra special this year. It’s incredible that she’s finally got her hand and for the first time ever she’ll be able to properly open her presents.
‘All she’s been able to do previously is use her right elbow down to pin the box down and rip it open with her left hand.’
Hollie’s family are raising money on GoFundMe for the upkeep of her new hand which will need refitting as she grows up.
You can donate here.
HOW DOES THE HERO ARM WORK?
Open Bionics designs and manufactures the prosthetic limb, which uses an actuator, designed by Maxon.
An actuator is a mechanical device that can turn energy into movement. It helps wearers move each finger.
As muscles generate electrical signals when they contract, they create movement when connected to the electrodes in the prosthetic.
Will Mason, the managing director at Maxon, said: ‘The bionic hand is controlled by tensing the same muscles which are used to open and close a biological hand.
‘When a user puts on their bionic arm and flexes muscles in their residual limb just below their elbow; special sensors detect tiny naturally generated electric signals, and convert these into intuitive and proportional bionic hand movement.’
Each Hero Arm is custom-built using 3D printing and 3D scanning technologies, so that it fits the user perfectly.
It has six grip types, such as fist, hook, pinch and tripod, to allow for versatility. It is battery powered.
The companies ‘Hero Arm’ claims to be less than half the price of its nearest competitor, and can be fitted for amputees as young as nine years old.
The cost of the 3D bionic arms varies according to individual clinics.
But a spokeswoman for Open Bionics said they are ‘vastly cheaper’ than existing advanced alternatives that cost between £20,000 and £60,000 for one hand.