Saturday 24 March 2018

'New bionic hand will change my life' - Mum who lost fingers to sepsis after welcoming fourth baby

Elaine Keogh

A bionic hand has allowed a young mother to do essential everyday tasks for the first time since losing fingers to sepsis.

"After eight months without the use of my left hand, it felt fantastic being able to do tasks with it again," said Niamh Boyle (32), who developed the life-threatening infection after the birth of her fourth child last year.

When she woke from a medically-induced coma, she was told she would have to have all the fingers on her left hand amputated. She also lost toes on her right foot.

Niamh, from Haggardstown, Co Louth, has spent the last week being trained in using the prosthetic "i-limb" by a specialist company in Co Galway.

Niamh with the prototype
Niamh with the prototype

She is now waiting for her bespoke hand to be delivered, which will allow her to live as normal a life as possible.

"The training with the prototype hand involved doing every day tasks, such as peeling vegetables, picking up and putting down different sized objects at different heights, and opening various packets and boxes and bottles," she said.

Niamh wants everyone to know the signs and symptoms of sepsis and to always ask doctors if they have checked for it.

"Now I know that a severe pain in your elbow or knee can be a sign of it," she said.

"The most common signs are shivering from a fever or cold, extreme pain or discomfort, pale or discoloured skin, sleepiness or difficult to rouse, feeling like you might die, and shortness of breath."

Niamh and husband Liam have baby Ardan (8 months), as well as his brothers Euan (2), Rian (5) and Ohran (6).

Niamh with Arden and Euan. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson
Niamh with Arden and Euan. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

Niamh is fundraising to cover the estimated €65,000 cost of the hand.

"They are custom-made by Touch Bionics in Scotland and this week I visited Apos in Galway, who took the mould for it, and I met with the trainers," Niamh said

The silicone mould for her hand has been sent to Scotland to begin the process of customising her new hand.

The last task for Niamh was to go grocery shopping.

"We went to a local Tesco with the Touch Bionics guys and I used the hand for pushing the trolley, putting items into the trolley, packing the shopping bags and lifting them into the boot of the car," Niamh said.

"It was a bit odd in the supermarket, as I felt everyone was looking at me, especially because it wasn't the finished hand so wires and tape were visible!

"I am so excited to get the finished hand and I am going to miss it [the prototype] so much while the real thing is being made."

The prosthetic will cost her €65,000 and "as I am not entitled to a medical card, we must raise the money for it".

"There is a gofundme campaign page [] and I am so grateful to all those who have donated to this cause so far. This hand will change my life both physically and emotionally," she said.

Doctors told Niamh she had just a 10pc chance of pulling through after the infection.

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