A teacher born without a right forearm has been given an advanced bionic “hero arm”, which she said has “changed her life forever”.
Vikki Smith, 25, from Berkshire, whose students now describe her as a “super teacher”, had previously found it challenging with only one functioning arm to juggle carrying pens, books and worksheets while trying to help children.
She had her arm funded by the Worshipful Company of Glovers of London, who donate prosthetic hands and arms to people unable to get help from the NHS or through other means.
She said: “My previous prosthetics have always been made to look realistic, so they look like real hands.
“The hero arm is so different to anything I’ve ever had, but it has given me so much more confidence.
“I have always hidden away, I’ve always liked people not looking at me, but then having this, it’s like a different me.
“I remember when I put it on and walked to work on the first day, and I walked with my sleeves rolled up and it on full show, I was really proud of it. The kids say it’s my robot arm, it’s made me into a super teacher.”
She is now able to use her bionic arm to cook, eat and drink and carry objects in the classroom.
She said it will allow her to demonstrate how people can overcome challenges in life and ensure that the children under her care can understand the importance of inclusivity.
Jonathan Isaacs, chairman of the Glovers Prosthetics Working Group, said: “We chose Vikki as our first hero arm candidate as we recognised that it would be a life-changing opportunity for her in her personal and work life.
“We recognised her ability to project positivity in overcoming difficulties and her determination to encourage inclusivity.”
Master Glover Mr Roger De Courcey, said: “The Worshipful Company of Glovers feel very privileged to have been involved in such a wonderful project and we hope that we might be in a position to help others in the future.”
The arm is one of several hero arms manufactured by Bristol-based company Open Bionics.
In January, an 11-year-old quadruple amputee became the first person to receive an R2-D2-themed bionic arm.
Although the arm is currently only available through private clinics, Open Bionics is working with the NHS and hopes the limbs could become available more widely.
In February, a military veteran who lost part of his arm in Afghanistan became the first person to receive one of the hero arms on the NHS.
The hero arm is so different to anything I've ever had, but it has given me so much more confidenceVikki Smith
The arm is manufactured with 3D scanning and 3D printing. The advantage is that it is relatively light and considerably less expensive than other bionic arms on the market and gives the recipient a functional and personalised artificial limb.
Samantha Payne, chief operating officer and co-founder of Open Bionics, said: “We’re so grateful to the Worshipful Company of Glovers for funding a hero arm for Vikki.
“The hero arm is the world’s most affordable multi-grip bionic arm and manufactured at a price point that’s affordable enough for NHS healthcare.
“Until the hero arm is available on the NHS, there are many people in the UK crowdfunding for better prosthetic devices.
“If you’re an upper limb amputee interested in the hero arm, please sign up on our website and we’ll support you with raising funds.”
Upper limb amputees looking for funding for prosthetic limbs can register online at www.openbionics.com/sign-up .