Regaining Independence With 3D-Printed Prosthesis: John’s Story

John receiving his Victoria Hand, St. Luke’s Orthopedic Hospital, 2022.

“[To] know that I’ll have my hand back after 13 years of pain and suffering, I’ll forever be indebted to VHP… To me that day when I receive my hand will be my second birthday” — John, 2021

John was born in September 1978 in Wasamo, a small village located on Mfangano Island in Western Kenya, where poverty is rampant and families often live on less than a dollar per day. After completing his high school certificate, John graduated from college with a diploma in mission work, and pursued a career as a fisherman and preacher on Remba Island in Lake Victoria, where he married and had four children.

Remba Island is situated in Lake Victoria Homa Bay County on the north-south border between Kenya and Uganda. It is a small, densely populated island and home to some 20,000 people whose economy is entirely dependent on fishing [1]. Images by Julie Olum (left) [2] and Google Maps (right).

In 2008, John’s life took a tragic turn when he was involved in a near fatal attack.

“I lost my left arm in a [cold-blooded] domestic attack with a machete from a close family member. This incapacitated me for over 13 years, during which I faced social stigma from members of the public who always stared at me, I couldn’t dress properly, or walk with a steady gait.”

Sadly, in the developing world, trauma is the leading cause of amputation, and accounts for up to 80% of all amputations [3]. With many people in these areas relying on labor-intensive occupations for their primary source of income, upper-limb amputations can leave families entrenched in a cycle of poverty [4].

John lost both his left hand and the patella in his right knee in the attack. In addition, his right hand was maimed, resulting in 90% of the veins being severed and rendering some fingers inactive. As a result, John’s livelihood was lost; he could no longer work as a fisherman and provide for his family in the way he used to. John was forced to beg for food to feed his children; an action that he was embarrassed by.

After losing his arm, John found it very difficult to complete common daily tasks.

“Before I received my prosthesis I couldn’t dress easily, I couldn’t cook easily, I couldn’t even lift up an object as light as a cup, I couldn’t hug my family and also I couldn’t look for things in my bags.”

He faced significant social stigma and barriers as he lived in a society where, often due to negative attitudes and traditional beliefs, individuals with limb differences are looked down on.

In 2021, John heard about the Victoria Hand Project (VHP) when a story about VHP aired on one of his television networks. John reached out to St. Luke’s Orthopedic and Trauma Hospital, VHP’s certified care provider located in Eldoret, Kenya, and the VHP team in Canada, to appeal for financial support to travel the long distance to St. Luke’s Hospital. Thanks to very generous donors, VHP and St. Luke’s Hospital were able to cover John’s travel costs to get him to Eldoret for measurements and casting, and once more to receive his customized hand.

In January 2022, John was fit with his very own Victoria Hand by the staff at St. Luke’s Orthopedic and Trauma Hospital! John’s hand was customized to him by the St. Luke’s team using 3D printing and 3D scanning technologies.

John at St. Luke’s Hospital learning how to use his functional Victoria Hand.

“The hand had a great social impact in my life… It has restored my dignity and social status. I now have confidence and I’m accepted in many social functions without raising unnecessary eyebrows.”

With his Victoria Hand, John is thrilled to become more independent and regain the ability to perform simple tasks, such as turning the pages of his Bible while he studies and lifting light objects. He appreciates the drastic social impact of having a prosthesis — avoiding unwanted attention and judgmental glances. The Victoria Hand has also improved John’s balance when he is sitting and walking.

Before hearing about the Victoria Hand Project, receiving a prosthetic device seemed like an impossible dream for John due to the high costs associated with receiving such a device, and the extreme poverty present in his community. The impact that the Victoria Hand has had goes beyond John, and touches all the lives of his friends and family. His Victoria Hand gives him newfound hope — now John plans on raising funds to buy his own boat and fishing nets so that he can continue to be able to provide for his family.

John using his new Victoria Hand to drink water from a cup in his home, 2022.

Reflecting back on the experience of receiving his Victoria Hand, John said that he could not express how “wonderful, unbelievable, and fantastic” the experience was for him.

How You Can Help

Since 2015, our success in helping amputees around the world has been made possible thanks to people just like you. With your generous contribution, no matter how great or small, you are able to truly make a difference. We are grateful for any help you can provide, and guarantee it will change lives for the better. Please consider donating to VHP today.

If you would like to help John directly by supporting the costs associated with his fishing boat and nets, please contact the Victoria Hand Project team via info@victoriahandproject.com to discuss how you can help. John is hoping to raise a total of $2000USD for the purchase of his own equipment.

Lazaru and Benson received Victoria Hands from our partners at St. Luke’s in June, 2021.

More Stories and Impact

Please subscribe to VHP’s newsletter to hear more stories like John’s, and to follow us on our journey to keep prosthetics within reach for all amputees!

Bin Amin writes with his new Victoria Hand (Child’s Hand, with the assistive writing device attachment).

Sources:

[1] “UEFA Foundation”, UEFA Foundation, 2022. [Online]. Available: https://uefafoundation.org/. [Accessed: 01- Mar- 2022].
[2] J. Olum, “2 Weeks At Mfangano Island”, Frameambition.com, 2019. [Online]. Available:
https://www.frameambition.com/blog1/mfangano-island-photo-diary?format=amp. [Accessed: 01- Mar- 2022].
[3] A. Esquenazi, “Amputation rehabilitation and prosthetic restoration. from surgery to community reintegration,” Disability and Rehabilitation, vol. 26, no. 14–15, pp. 831–836, 2004.
[4] B. Phillips, G. Zingalis, S. Ritter, and K. Mehta, “A review of current upper-limb prostheses for resource constrained settings,” 2015 IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC), 2015.

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