Wednesday 23 May 2018

Little Alfie (5) becomes ‘Bionic Boy’ after getting new robotic hand specially made for him

Alfie Hunter (5). Photo: Gofundme
Alfie Hunter (5). Photo: Gofundme
Catherine Devine

Catherine Devine

Little Alfie Hunter (5) has become ‘Bionic Boy’ after getting a new robotic hand specially made for him.

Alfie from Ballynahinch in Co. Down was born without his right hand but he didn’t let that hold him back.

“He met all his milestones as a child but now that he’s getting a bit older he sees wee ones the same as him with two hands and tells them he’s getting a robot hand,” said Alfie’s mum Laverne.

Megan Tissington (21) from Dublin designed the robotic arm for Alfie as part of her final year project at The National College of Art and Design.

Her project called “aumentarM” is a 3D printed arm and hand system for children aged between four and 12 years.

“Alfie chose this hand and material because he loves how robotic it looks. This is something that kids seem to enjoy in a prosthetic, they love the unnaturalness of a ‘robot hand’ (Alfie’s word for a prosthetic) and they often want it to be able to perform Inspector Gadget style functions. To me that makes perfect sense; if you have a bionic hand, it should at least let you do things that regular hands could never do,” said Megan.

Alfie has 3 siblings  Ryan (17), Jordie (15) and Evie (3) and mum Laverne said it has been tough at times on his older siblings having to stand up for their brother when he was being picked on at school.

“They’ve had to endure others teasing him at school and saying nasty things but they have remained above it at all times and stuck up for their brother through thick and thin. There was a time when Alfie didn’t want to go out in big crowds for fear of being picked on, but I always told him, “tell people you are special, you were born this way, and one day you’re going to have a big robot hand” which Alfie loved explaining to people,” said Laverne.

Laverne explained that parents need to educate their children about disabilities.

“I prefer when kids come up to Alfie and ask him about it and then move on. It’s the parents who hush their kids and tell them to ignore it that leads them to think that there’s something wrong with it,” she said.

“Kids can be cruel, but it’s all about education.”

The prosthetic hand costs roughly €200 to make in Alfie’s size but as he continues to grow he will need a new one every year.

“The cost of the 3D printed prosthetic will increase as the size does. It is realistic to assume that it will cost up to €5,000 to be able to provide Alfie with 3D printed prosthetics until such a time as he has stopped growing,” said designer Megan.

“Once he has stopped growing, he will need a more permanent prosthetic, which is where things will begin to get incredibly costly. Depending on the type of prosthetic, you are typically looking at around €30,000 to €40,000 for a fully functioning upper limb prosthesis that would allow the same degree of motion as a human arm or hand.”

As costs could rise to €60,000 for fittings and maintenance of the prosthetic limb Megan launched a GoFundMe page for Alfie.

The Hunter family have been fundraising since Alfie was born but with four kids Laverne was grateful that Megan was starting up a new fundraiser for Alfie.

“Megan has been fantastic. I couldn’t have done it without her. I'm so grateful to everyone involved – to see Alfie getting the hand he's been longing for makes me so happy and I can't thank everyone enough,” said Laverne.

You can donate money for Alfie here

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