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New hand opens up Newbury girl's world

3D-printed prosthetic makes anything possible for three-year-old

New hand opens up Newbury girl's world

THIS little girl from Newbury just can’t stop smiling after being given a 3D printed hand for Christmas.

Marla Trigwell was born without a left hand, but now the three-and-a-half-year-old has barely taken off the printed prosthetic since she received it from Newbury and District Hackspace last month.

The 3D printed hand – a piece of cutting-edge technology –  was made specifically for her by the local community group.

After many weeks tweaking the printer, the community group presented Marla with her hand, wrapped like a Christmas present, on December 15.

Marla’s mother, Joanne Taylor, said she thought she had prepared herself emotionally for the event but could not contain her emotion.

She said: “I was a mess and in floods of tears. The look on her face made it all worthwhile.

“I really didn’t expect to feel as emotional as I did. It very much brought home memories of when she was born.” 

Miss Taylor thought that her daughter wouldn’t be able to perform certain actions because of her missing hand. But she was proved wrong after contacting Reach, a charity that helps children born with upper limb differences and their families.

“We learned there’s not a lot that she won’t be able to do. If she wants to do it she can,” she said.

Marla has had four prosthetic hands but Miss Taylor said that the cost of producing them for children was high and they were quickly outgrown. The limbs can also be uncomfortable.

Nevertheless, the family tried to keep their options open for Marla, having witnessed the massive advances in prosthetics and their potential in the three years since she was born.

Then they saw that designs for 3D printed hands had become available from Team Unlimbited and e-NABLE – groups that use 3D printers to create custom limbs – and took to social media, asking if any local people had one of the devices. 

The call was answered by co-founder of Newbury and District Hackspace Stuart Livings, who is also Marla’s godfather.

Miss Taylor attended Hackspace sessions with the intention of learning how to print the limb, however, the group’s co-founder Andrew Lindsay took on the project, seeing it as a challenge to solve a real world problem.

After receiving the hand, Mr Livings said that after some encouragement Marla’s young mind had realised the potential of the 3D-printed appendage, picking up items and then using a pen to draw on a whiteboard. 

He said: “There was a moment where her eyes lit up and she just stared at the hand.

“I could see her little mind exploring the possibilities.

“She ran around saying ‘I’m a crab I’m a crab’. It was just a wonderful moment.” 

Miss Taylor added: “She’s barely taken it off since she got it. She loves picking things up with it.

“I think it will make more of a difference psychologically than physically.

“People look at it and go ‘wow that’s amazing, what can you do with it?’.

“The first impression with this has been ‘wow’ and not ‘you poor thing’. The first impression is important, people used to pity her.”

Miss Taylor said the ability of a community group to 3D print a hand could have a profound impact.

“I’m just stunned at how far they are progressing,” she said. “To be able to bring 3D printed hands to children at a much earlier age could make a huge difference to them.”

Mr Livings added that the technology used to create the hand was relatively simple and that Hackspace’s ideal of sharing knowledge and equipment could help others. 

“It’s not very difficult to do, it’s just that our culture has moved away from people doing things for themselves,” he said.

The story may not end there as Hackspace is looking at improvements, including fitting a hand that Marla could control electronically. 

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