SPRINGFIELD — On Sept. 15, Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield outfitted 8-year-old patient Sam with the first custom-built, 3D-printed bionic arm in the health system. The device, known as the Hero Arm, customized for Sam with Marvel Comics superhero Iron Man covers, was made possible through a collaboration with UK-based bionics company Open Bionics and will enable Sam, a bilateral amputee, to live life to the fullest.
Engineered and manufactured in Bristol, U.K., the Hero Arm is a myoelectric prosthesis for below-elbow amputees. When a user intentionally flexes specific muscles in their residual limb, EMG electrodes within the Hero Arm detect tiny electrical signals, allowing them to activate different grips with precise control.
For Sam, already an active athlete, the Hero Arm will enable him to engage more fully in all the sports and activities he loves, including baseball, basketball, skiing, and playing with his friends and younger siblings. At home and school, the Hero Arm will make dressing, eating, cooking, and other self-care tasks easier.
“We selected Sam to be the first patient to receive the Hero Arm because we knew it would help him do all the things he currently enjoys while providing an opportunity to develop fine motor skills and greater independence,” said Brock McConkey, manager of Orthotics and Prosthetics at Shriners Hospitals for Children – Springfield. “It’s also lightweight and durable, which is perfect for a boy as young and active as Sam.”
Sam’s mother, Michelle, added that “having a hand that can function more as a traditional hand improves Sam’s quality of life significantly. The Hero Arm makes seemingly simple tasks — such as playing with toys with small pieces, catching a ball, or swinging a bat — easier for Sam. It is an amazing gift that our family is incredibly grateful for.”