Young meningitis victim receives Star Wars-themed bionic arm

17 January 2020, 20:14

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

An 11-year-old boy has become the first person to receive an R2-D2 bionic arm after losing four limbs to meningitis.

Kye Vincent, from Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, was diagnosed with the disease when he was just eight-years-old and within 24 hours it had spread through his body.

Doctors were forced to amputate both of the young boy's legs, his left hand and part of his right hand after Kye had been given just days to live in April 2016.

The youngster was placed in an induced coma and spent 38 weeks in hospital before his long road to a miraculous recovery.

Kye and his family began crowdfunding and eventually raised £10,000 for the Star Wars-themed "hero arm."

His mother, Cheryl Vincent, said: "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.

"Seeing Kye with a hand again was very, 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."

Kye Vincent became the first person to receive an R2-D2 bionic arm
Kye Vincent became the first person to receive an R2-D2 bionic arm. Picture: PA / Open Bionics

The 3D-printed multi-grip arm was manufactured by a Bristol-based company called Open Bionics.

Though the design is completely unique, the company have also created Disney and Marvel-themed arms including Frozen and Iron Man.

Samantha Payne, co-founder of Open Bionics, said: "We wanted to show that people with a difference can be superheroes.

"There are no other multi-grip prosthetics available for children, and the ones that are can be quite ugly or impractical."

The firm are working with the NHS to increase availability for the prosthetic limbs, which can currently only be obtained via 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"We are waiting for NHS England to update their out-of-date guidelines to give access to amputees in the UK this multi-grip technology that costs the same or less than current NHS myoelectric solutions," Ms Payne added.

EMG sensors are used in the arm to detect muscle movements, while the hand is opened and closed by tensing the same muscles in a biological hand.

Kye's family raised £10,000 for the bionic arm
Kye's family raised £10,000 for the bionic arm. Picture: PA / Open Bionic

Kye's bionic arm is also adjustable to that it can grow as he gets older.

Curt Wainwright, from Green Bay, Wisconsin, bought an Iron Man arm for his 13-year-old son, Jonathan.

"Normal prosthetics are more cosmetic. He wanted it to be of use to him. He was born without a hand, so he has become accustomed to using his nubbie. So at his age, he wanted it to be 'useful'," he said.

He shared a video of his son using the arm to drink apple juice: "The look on his face is all you need to know."

Joel Gibbard, the manufacturer's co-founder and chief executive, 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."