Sunday, March 16, 2014

Little Blue aka Zeke's Robohand

Well, it's here.  Ty at Robohand USA is just getting started printing 3 D hands and we had the privelege of being one of the first people to use her services.  Robohand USA is actually located in Atlanta, Georgia.  This meant we needed to make a casting of Zeke's arm.   We used Precious Impressions memory gel to create a mold of Zeke's hand which we then filled with plaster.  Once it was hardened, we took off the gel and mailed the plaster cast of Zeke's hand/forearm.  Then Ty went to work and used our casting to create a hand.

Ty calls this hand "Little Blue"

Now what?  Our decision to look into Robohand for Zeke was not based on our desire for him to have a functioning hand that he would choose to use every day, all day.  That's probably not going to happen.  For many with upper body limb differences, prosthetics can be limiting.  They don't have any sensation to them so while a hand missing fingers or an arm missing a hand may seem to be tricky, covering up that hand or arm with a prosthetic limits the person's ability to actually feel what they are doing.  (ie what they are touching, how they are touching it)  Also, people with limb differences are innovative and creative; I truly believe their brains compensate for those missing parts by creating different pathways than what one might normally use to manipulate objects.  This Robohand has actually kind of reinforced this thought in me.  Zeke has never had more than a thumb and half a finger.  He really has no idea of how fingers work.  He knows how to use what he has to accomplish a task but watching him try to pick things up with the Robohand, it became clear that he really did not know how to use fingers in a traditional way.  He also is so adept at using his left hand (with the fingers) and relies heavily on this hand so it is a big adjustment to get used to having the Robohand.  He often uses his left hand to "feed" items into his Robohand.

Our goal in getting a Robohand was twofold.  We hoped to 1.  to give Zeke experience with a prosthetic hand, to provide him with an opportunity to try something and hopefully decide on a few tasks where having the Robohand might make a big difference in his ability to do the task and
2.  to have an additional help in place for Zeke's surgery in May, when he will be in a cast on his "good side" for a month, without much ability to grasp items.

He was very excited when it came in the mail on Thursday.  He wanted to open the box immediately and spent a good portion of the day putting it on and taking it off, opening and closing it, and just playing around with it.  He told the handful of people who we saw that he got his Robohand in the mail.  He hasn't used it as much Saturday and Sunday but I'm sure some of the novelty has worn off.  He will be taking it with him to preschool and I'm hoping that the occupational therapist at school will be able to work with him using the Robohand.  We also plan to do a bit of "games" around here that will be geared toward practicing with the hand, things like batting a balloon or rolling a ball.

There is also some tweaking to be done to the hand.  Right now, the grip is a bit loose and I'd like to try to see if we can tighten the tension.  The fingers are also a latex dipped plastic so when picking up other plastic items, the fingers don't have a lot of traction and objects can slide out.  To be honest, Zeke has actually been pretty sick the last few days with bronchitis so my ability to evaluate the hand has been kind of limited.  (And D's smack in the middle of soccer so he's not home until 7 or so and I'm on my own with all the kids so that kind of limits things too.)   It's also a bit about trying to balance the reality of what a Robohand really is useful for with our expectations all while taking into account that Zeke will probably be more proficient with more practice.  Regardless, Ty at Robohand is willing to help us troubleshoot and tweak or create to meet Zeke's needs.

So that's the scoop and here's a pic...
Zeke posing for the camera.  I told him I wanted to take a picture of him with the Robohand and he was working on a project so he grabbed the marker and started scribbling.  For him, using the Robohand to draw with is really not a great application.  His fine motor skills on his other side are really good so this really doesn't help him.  But he did think it was fun to be able to draw with that side.

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