Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Man injured in bomb attack is proud owner of first £40,000 bionic hand in Ireland

Stephen Lowry with his state-of-the-art bionic hand as he works at his computer and (inset) picking up keys. Left, Stephen in hospital after the bomb blast

Stephen Lowry with his state-of-the-art bionic hand as he works at his computer. Picture Banbridge Chronicle

Forget about the Six Million Dollar Man, here's Northern Ireland's £40,000 right-hand man.

Bomb victim Stephen Lowry is now the proud owner of a revolutionary new bionic prosthetic hand, believed to be first of its kind in use on the island of Ireland.

The Bebionic hand is made by Leeds-based company RSL Steeper and was provided to the Co Down man by Musgrave Park Hospital's Regional Disablement Services.

The prosthesis, which comes with a flesh-coloured skin glove, works on advanced sensor technology that picks up the electrical impulses generated from the biceps and triceps of the amputee.

For the 51-year-old from Banbridge this new prosthetic hand is "simply the best" as he soon aims to qualify to fly a microlight plane solo.

He said: "I'm classed as a high-user at Musgrave Park so when they offered me a chance to test this new hand, I jumped at the chance.

"It's the best I've ever had as it allows me to do finer work like hold a pen and work a mouse.

"I've been told it could have cost as much as £40,000 for the components, the technicians' time and the cast."

Mr Lowry lost his hand in 1985 after being injured in an explosion in Cupid's nightclub in Newry when he was working there as a DJ.

While the care he received at Daisy Hill Hospital and by the Musgrave Park team has helped him lead a full and active life since the bombing, the traumatic incident still weighs heavily on Mr Lowry's mind.

"I'm not afraid to say that the full impact of losing my hand actually didn't really hit me hard until many years later and I ended up in Craigavon Hospital.

"But that night in Newry, I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I was working as a DJ there [at Cupid nightclub] and at the end of the night, while helping other staff to clear up, I picked up a coat, the bomb was wrapped up inside it and it blew up.

"I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember it blowing my hand off.

"I remember saying to myself 'I'm too young to die here' so I managed to get up and started to walk. Then I passed out and next thing I woke up again in the ambulance."

While he had to eventually leave his job after losing his hand, Stephen keeps busy with some IT work for friends, DIY at home and his flying lessons at Kernan Aviation in Portadown.

BACKGROUND

The success of Stephen Lowry's new prosthetic hand is made possible by the combination of the manufacturer, RSL Steeper, which makes the components, and Musgrave Park Hospital's Regional Disablement Services, which assembles the hand and fits the cast to the right kind of candidate who is prepared to be trained in its use. Terry Crow from Musgrave Park Hospital has been fitting Stephen with his prosthetic hands since his injury in 1985. He said: "Stephen was an ideal candidate to trial this for a period of four weeks as he's quite a fit young man, with good motivation. Stephen has worked hard at using these devices, to get the best out of them through the years and I'm sure he will do the same with this one. He's learning to fly as well, he's a quite remarkable guy and all credit to him."

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