Michael Bailey is a student and self-described technology nut who always keeps up with the latest developments, but he never thought for one minute that he would become one of the first people in the world to be the recipient of the world’s first bionic finger.
Bailey lost three fingers and parts of his left hand in March 2008 while working in a paper recycling plant cleaning out an industrial paper baler as normal. “Well, the machine did what it was supposed to and that’s how I ended up with my injury,” Bailey says.
With difficulty getting back to normal — more trips to the car for groceries, folding clothes and cleaning the house, Bailey says he eventually realized that there was more to life than his injury.
Bailey’s physical therapist first introduced him to Touch Bionics’ ProDigits bionic fingers. After testing to see if he met the criteria, Bailey was fitted for the prothesis in July 2009. Despite having never used a myoelectric prosthetic device before, Bailey says he found adapting to ProDigits incredibly easy. “Honestly, I had only put it on for five minutes and I was getting it to work just fine,” he says. “It feels like it belongs there, like it’s part of me.”
ProDigits is the first device for partial-hand patients, and is the latest addition to Touch Bionics’ portfolio of protheses, which includes the i-LIMB Hand. According to Touch Bionics, the amputee population is estimated to be around 40,000 in the U.S. and 1.2 million worldwide; until now, these people have had no commercially available powered prosthetic solution open to them.
Not having fingers or a thumb to act in opposition to one another makes simple tasks such as holding a fork or a cup difficult and frustrating. The articulating digit underpins much of ProDigits’ technical advantage and it is this articulation that provides the biggest benefit to the patient. With the ability to bend, touch, pick-up and point – the ProDigits used within an overall prosthesis reflects the function of a natural hand, according to Touch Bionics.
Touch Bionics also offers a range of coverings for ProDigits. Some patients like the high-tech clear and black robotic skins, while others prefer LIVINGSKIN, a high definition silicone solution that provides a human-like look and feel.
“Everyone was just as amazed as I was that this technology even existed – and they are all very happy for me and supportive because they know how much I love technology,” Bailey says.
The main benefit of ProDigits for Michael is that it just makes simple things so much easier — picking things up while vacuuming, working on cars, even playing with his five-year-old son. “All in all, the injury has actually helped me to appreciate things more and to notice the smaller, more important things in life,” he says. “It was definitely a blessing in disguise -– it’s been a really unique and educational experience for me.”