December 11th, 2017

Lethbridge team reaches out

By Mabell, Dave on July 10, 2017.

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald

Aided by prosthetic arms “printed” in Canada, three Lethbridge people have offered new hope to an accident victim in Africa.

While fetching water from a well, a 19-year-old student contacted a high-voltage power line with a a metal pipe – and ultimately lost both his hands and forearms.

When retired University of Lethbridge kinesiology professor Mary Dyck learned about his situation from family members serving as missionaries in Nigeria, she contacted a recent graduate who owns a three-dimensional plastic printing company.

Soon she and Colin Pischke, owner of Print Your Mind 3D, got in touch with a Toronto company specializing in high-tech solutions to medical issues. They joined the company, Medical Makers, and became leaders in a project aimed at creating new hands and arms.

No on in the team had a background in therapy, so Dyck recruited Brittany Mercier, an athletic therapist at the university’s Rebound Health Centre who had also served as a teaching assistant in one of her classes.

Earlier this year, she and Mercier travelled to Africa to meet the young man, known as Sunday. They brought a printed arm and socket, and tested a 3D-printed gripper thumb terminal device.

Sunday quickly realized how the device could help him with his daily living tasks – and assist him when he’s ready to return to university.

“We were very excited to meet Sunday and to test the prosthetic arm,” Dyck says. “The 3D-printed gripper thumb will enable him to grasp objects such as a pen or toothbrush.

“I don’t believe he could envision doing daily tasks again without seeing our prototype prosthetic.”

During their three weeks in Nigeria, Mercier was also able to use her athletic therapy skills to help Sunday, who had difficulties walking after skin was taken from his lower leg and ankle to help his upper arms heal.

“Brittany worked with Sunday every day to reduce the restrictions of his skin graft scar tissue on his mobility,” Dyck says. “The difference that the treatments made was unbelieveable.”

The hospital where he lived provides no physiotherapy, she explains.

Mercier says it was rewarding to help someone who’d been so severely injured, yet still had a positive approach to life.

“Sunday was wonderful. He was compliant, optimistic and grateful for any help that could be given,” she says.

More recently, the three Lethbridge volunteers and the Medical Makers team have helped with the modifications eeded to redesign and print two new arms. They’ve also been assisted by Ryan Cochrane, a prosthesis professional in Lethbridge.

This summer, all going well, Sunday will get his new arms. And with them, he’ll receive a comprehensive therapy program including videos developed by Mercier.

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