R2-D2 Bionic arm on its side on a white background

‘Star Wars’ bionic arm delights young amputee

Image credit: Open Bionics

An 11-year-old quadruple amputee has become the first person to receive a bionic arm reminiscent of the ‘Star Wars’ franchise’s most memorable droid, R2-D2.

Kye Vincent, from Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, began crowdfunding for the Star Wars-themed 'hero arm' after losing four limbs to meningitis when he was eight years old.

The infection took less than 24 hours to spread through his body, which resulted in doctors amputating both of his lower legs, his right hand and part of his left hand.

Kye Vincent with the prosthetic arm on

Image credit: Open Bionics

“They didn’t have much of a chance of saving his limbs. Kye said he wanted to be a bionic boy, so we started fundraising,” said Kye’s mother Cheryl Vincent, who said that seeing her son with a hand again was very emotional.

“I was full of pride, I could burst. I was so happy for him. From a very young age, he’s always loved Star Wars. And to have it on a prosthetic arm, it shows what he’s into,” she explained.

The arm is one of several ‘hero arms’ manufactured by Bristol-based Open Bionics, which develops 3D-printed multi-grip prosthetics that are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Many of its products cater for children who have lost limbs and offer them a range of designs – which include Disney and Marvel-themed arms such as Frozen and Iron Man.

“We wanted to show that people with a difference can be superheroes,” said Samantha Payne, the co-founder of the company. “There are no other multi-grip prosthetics available for children, and the ones that are [available] can be quite ugly or impractical.”

She added that the company is collaborating with the NHS to make the limbs more widely available – currently, they can only be secured through private treatment and funding.

“We are waiting for NHS England to update their out-of-date guidelines to give access to amputees in the UK this multi-grip technology that costs the same or less than current NHS myoelectric solutions,” Payne said.

The arm works using electromyography (EMG) sensors that detect muscle movement, and the hand is controlled by tensing the same muscles that are used to open and close a biological hand.

Growing children can be fitted for a normal prosthetic up to twice a year; however, the bionic arm Open Bionics offers has an adjustable size, meaning it can grow alongside the child.

R2-D2 Bionic arm upright on a white background

Image credit: Open Bionics

Joel Gibbard, co-founder and chief executive of Open Bionics, said: “We’re really grateful to Lucasfilm for allowing us to find inspiration from their incredible Star Wars characters, which has helped us to empower children with limb differences.

“The R2-D2 covers for the Hero Arm are easy to take on and off, allowing children like Kye to accessorise their bionic arm to match their mood.

“The covers showcase that your uniqueness is your superpower and you shouldn’t feel like you have to hide your limb difference – instead you can show it off.”

Prosthetic arm on table

Image credit: Open Bionics

More on aesthetically-pleasing prosthetic limbs, and Open Bionics, will be seen in E&T’s upcoming issue, Volume 15 Issue 1.

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