Haitian orphan with no fingers given a hand by British engineer and 3D-printer
12-year-old boy can now play catch after remarkable prosthetic is created
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Tuesday 13 May 2014
Thanks to a British-born software engineer, a South African carpenter and a remarkable prosthetic they created together using 3D printing technology, a 12-year-old Haitian orphan born without fingers can now play catch.
Stevenson Joseph was abandoned at the age of three and brought up at the Little Children of Jesus Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital. In 2010, he arrived at the city’s Bernard Mevs hospital after a catastrophic earthquake, which killed more than 100,000 people. The hospital’s orthopaedic team was working to fit prosthetic limbs on amputees.
But Stevenson was different: he had been handicapped from birth. Doctors said there was little they could do for him in Haiti, where few disabled people can find proper care.
Thomas Iwalla, an orthopaedic technician at the hospital, said: “Some congenital conditions, like Stevenson’s, are pretty hard to tackle. Not even surgery could repair his missing fingers.”
Last year the boy’s luck changed when he met John Marshall, a British software engineer based in California, who had travelled to Haiti with his wife, Lisa, on a mission trip for the Christian development charity Food for the Poor.
“Stevenson is handicapped in a small way, in a way that’s not as bad as some of the other children. Yet his hands are holding him back,” Mr Marshall said. “He can do so much more. He has the potential.”
When he returned home to California, Mr Marshall came across an article about Richard van As, a South African carpenter who had lost some of his fingers in a sawing accident in 2011. Mr van As had built himself a plastic prosthetic using a 3D printer, which he named “Robohand”.
Stevenson Joseph with John Marshall (Food For The Poor)
After making contact, the two men worked together to create a Robohand for Stevenson, which was shipped to Haiti and fitted by Mr Iwalla’s team last month.
Staff at the orphanage for disabled children say the prosthesis has enabled the 12-year-old to take part in previously impossible activities such as playing catch. Thanks to his new hand he may even go on to be able to write.
3D printing has already been used to build clothing, cars, guns and musical instruments, and Stevenson is one of many children to have benefited from Mr van As’s invention: the first recipient of a Robohand was a five-year-old South African boy, Liam Dippenaar, who had been born without fingers on his right hand. Printing each prosthetic costs only around £180.
Last year, in Southern Sudan, a 16-year-old refugee named Daniel, who had lost both his arms in an explosion, was fitted with a 3D-printed prosthetic limb that allowed him to feed himself for the first time in two years. The organisers of “Project Daniel” hope to bring the Robohand to as many as 50,000 amputees affected by wars in Africa.
Stevenson told Reuters that his new hand, which is articulated by movements in his wrist, is “great”.
He explained: “Now I can take a balloon with it. I can score at basketball. I can hold a TV remote and push my friends on their wheelchairs. I can hold a water bottle, a bag. I like it a lot.”
Mr Iwalla said, “Some patients care more about cosmetics. But for Stevenson function is the most important criteria. That’s what is in his mind. His robot hand makes him happy, makes us happy.”
Life & Style blogs
Penis size study: what's 'normal' anyway?
What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
Penis size: is there a correlation with sexual satisfaction? A scientific look
From criminal to catwalk: Convict Jeremy Meeks wins modelling contract in the most unusual fashion scouting – behind bars
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 4 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 5 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Junior IT Support Technician ...
£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This distributor and wholesaler...
£28000 - £30000 per annum + Bonus, Pension, 25days hol, PHC +: Ashdown Group: ...
£20000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful candidate will h...