By STEPHEN FLANAGAN JACKSON
Everybody needs a hand at some point in their life. And usually there is someone to respond by offering a hand.
A group of special people in the Sun City Center-Wimauma area take all this hand-talk literally. This group, through high tech not available as little as 10 years ago, gives a hand by manufacturing a tailor-made hand, or finger or arms, to those, either by birth or by accident, who have struggled to this point in their lives without standard operating appendages.
The ObserverNews/The SCC Observer visited one of these persons who contribute their heart and head as well as their own gifted hands to this unusual, worthwhile project, which provides manual dexterity to those who, up to now, possessed limited or no use of hands, fingers or arms.
Can you imagine changing diapers with a deformed hand or truncated fingers? What about opening a can of food or opening a refrigerator without an arm? What about swimming? What about the cosmetic anguish?
We, with functional normal appendages, take our blessings for granted. Those who don’t, have suffered or compensated to deal with the deficit. But now they can turn to this group in South Shore, which provides, free of charge, a substitute or prosthetic device, honed from the hearts, minds, and, ironically, hands in conjunction with the wizardry of modern technology.
A resident of Valencia Lakes, Brad Cooper, is part of a small, local club aptly named Handling The Future. Cooper and his colleagues work tirelessly to provide 3D-printed plastic prostheses to others who were born with deformities or defects such as no hands, fingers or arms or who sustained an accident that led to such dysfunctions.
Cooper shared the technology, the talent, and the compassion, which this group of individuals, all volunteers, utilize to produce and gift to those in physical and emotional need.
As told by Cooper: “Members of Handling The Future recently met with a mom and her 12-year-old daughter. The daughter was in need of two fingers that were formed ‘short’ due to a birth defect.
“In preparation, a test finger was printed on the innovative 3D printer to demonstrate the functionality. This consisted of two ‘bumpers’ for attachment to a wrist bracelet and alternatively a harness.
“During the session, the 12-year-old eventually came out of her shell and opened up to questions and her interests with the team’s retired occupational therapists and their inquiries.
“I shared the technology of 3D printing, which opened her eyes even more. As ideas were shared we learned that her favorite color is blue. The wheels turned and we realized a need to print her 3D fingers in shades of blue.”
The dedicated members of Handling The Future then took numerous detailed measurements in millimeters of her two fingers as well as on the other hand.
Cooper said, “Walking out and turning our separate ways, I overheard the young girl tell mom, ‘I’m so excited.’
“Thanks to our (Valencia Lakes) Beading Club, member for making a most gorgeous bracelet for her to wear with the prosthetic.
“She truly loved it as evidenced by the giant smile on her face.”
Presently, a session is dedicated to designing the fingers for her, then comes the printing, assembly and ultimately meeting with her again. A roll of filament (ink) used in the 3D printer costs about $50 each. Cooper said, “This $50 can yield about four hands.”
A few donations will go a long way, so, if you can, please place a check in the mail to: Handling The Future, c/o Valencia Lakes, 16003 Valencia Club Drive, Wimauma, FL 33598.
Handling The Future is part of Tampa e-NABLE, which is an affiliate of the global e-NABLE.
Handling The Future’s parent organization, e-NABLE is a worldwide network of volunteers who produce and gift prostheses for those in need. Members collaborate to improve and utilize the open source 3D printable designs for hands and arms. e-NABLE volunteers provide them to those who were born without hands or who have lost them due to war, disease or natural disaster.
The e-NABLE community is made up of teachers, students, engineers, scientists, medical professionals, tinkerers, designers, parents, children, scout troops, artists, philanthropists, dreamers, coders, makers and everyday people who just want to make a difference.
Anyone in need of such a prosthetic should contact the local Handling The Future or e-NABLE, which can determine suitability for help.
According to Cooper, they will assess the client’s suitability, needs and desires; take measurements, and if indicated, perform a 3D scan of the limb. He added that the 3D-printed devices are for children and adults who have wrists, but no fingers or elbows with no wrists/hands. The prosthetic devices are best suited for individuals who have had occupational therapy to strengthen their limb for the use of the mechanical device. For the device to perform effectively, the individual must have at least 30 degrees of motion in either wrist or elbow to have movement in the device.
Cooper points out that while the devices provide a basic functional grasping motion for children or adults and are colorful, useful and fun, they are designed as tools for specific tasks. He said the client will be supported throughout the process.
Cooper also mentioned that a referral from a physician or healthcare provider is not required to partner with Handling The Future, Inc.
Anyone interested should contact directly via email HandlingTheFuture@gmail.com, as well as visit the website of the global partners to review designs that best meet needs at www.enablingthefuture.org/which-design. The client, or in the case of a child, a parent or caregiver, is expected to participate fully in the process.
There is no charge for the devices for the clients, emphasizes Cooper, concluding, funding is needed for supplies, equipment and training to sustain ongoing operations, so the general public is also encouraged to “give” a hand by donating to this nonprofit 501.