Five year old Keith Harris was the most popular kid in his Houston elementary school last week when he showed up with his new space-age prosthetic hand. In yet another amazing development from 3-D printing, Keith, who was born with symbrachydactyly, was able to show off to his classmates the coolest hand in the school. Until now, Keith has had to deal with a deformity in his right hand setting him apart from his peers and greatly impacting his motor skills development. But all of this has changed, according to his mother. Keith is a new person, with self-confidence, joy and a new personality to go along with his new hand.
Symbrachydactyly is a very rare condition, affecting one in 32,000 births, and results in the fingers of the hand to be webbed, or some fingers to be extremely short or missing altogether. It usually impacts only one hand. The forearm is also shorter than normal. There are different theories as to what actually causes symbrachydactyly. In the womb, a baby’s hands are shaped liked a mitten. Then, fingers emerge and divide. But for the developing baby with symbrachydactyly, this does not happen due either to inadequate blood flow or problems with the tissue. The normal growth of finger bones does not happen. There is no evidence that the condition is genetic nor due to any external conditions of the pregnancy.
Keith seems to be having no trouble adjusting to his new hand, as evidenced by the high-fives with classmates and his fist-making skills on display at the local Houston TV station. He had a small part in its development—the hand is in the colors of blue and black, which are his favorite colors.
E-Nable Organization developed the hand for Keith at an incredibly low price of only $45, versus $40,000 for a prosthetic that would have been quickly outgrown. E-Nable is an international group of around 1,500 volunteers who have joined forces for the express purpose of exploiting 3-D technology to create hand devices to improve the quality of life for individuals dealing with hand-related disabilities. They include engineers, teachers, artists, parents, philanthropists, prosthetic designers, and a myriad of others all united in the cause of making available for easy download complete plans for producing highly sophisticated mechanical hand devices. Their work is benefiting young people all around the world.
Keith will require physical therapy to learn how to properly use his new hand, but judging from his enthusiasm, this should be no problem for him. One more piece of good news for all those dealing with physical impairments, medical professionals, and the hard-working volunteers at E-Nable.