Jan 26, 2016 | By Benedict
Last year, two unfortunate parents experienced their worst nightmare. For years, the happy couple had grown used to hearing the joyful laughter of their young daughter Mitsuko as she enjoyed her childhood near Nouméa, New Caledonia. That parental bliss endured until one fateful day in October, when those giggles turned into bloodcurdling screams. Rushing to the scene of the commotion, Mitsuko’s father Etienne witnessed the most upsetting sight of his life: Mitsuko had trapped her right hand in a machine, losing all of her fingers.
The injury was not fatal, but Mitsuko’s fingers could not be reattached by local medics, so the young girl’s use of her right hand was lost forever—or so it seemed. Shorty after the tragic incident, Mitsuko’s mother was due to travel to Paris for minor surgery. Hoping that the French capital would have a greater number of prosthesis providers than the small group of Pacific islands that make up New Caledonia, Etienne brought Mitsuko and her younger brother Erwan along for the trip.
Unfortunately for Mitsuko, all prosthesis options in Paris were either prohibitively expensive or unsuitable for her needs. “Etienne soon discovered that the medical world did not have many answers in cases like Mitsuko’s,” explained Thierry Oquidam, an e-NABLE France community volunteer. “The only devices available to her were expensive, costing thousands of Euros and unpractical in the sense that they would block her wrist movement. The prosthetic devices that [were] available to them would [have taken] a month or two to have built, which was way too long for the family who had to fly back to their home.”
Etienne contacted scores of prosthesis providers, the most important of whom turned out to be Proteor, whose manager, Marielle, had a bright idea. Seeing that Proteor could not provide a prosthesis for Mitsuko within Etienne’s budget, Marielle redirected the desperate father to Thierry at e-NABLE France. Marielle had recently met Thierry at an event, where the e-NABLE volunteer had offered to help Proteor get involved with 3D printing.
Upon hearing of Mitsuko’s troubles, Thierry was keen to help Etienne in any way he could—and fast, given the family’s imminent departure from Paris. Seeing the limited timeframe he had to design and manufacture a 3D printed hand for Mitsuko, Thierry asked Ghislain Gauthier, another e-NABLE France volunteer, to provide a helping hand.
The two volunteers met with the family on December 31 to take photos and measurements of Mitsuko’s hand, before getting to work immediately on a 3D printed prosthesis. With each volunteer 3D printing half of the necessary parts, the duo were able to effectively halve the time needed to make Mitsuko’s new hand. By January 6, the first prototype was ready, and Mitsuko had her first fitting.
The 3D printed hand was a success, but Thierry and Ghislain spotted a few problems, so went back to the drawing board to work on a second 3D printed prosthesis. The second model, bright pink and adorned with stars, was completed on January 11, and received a stamp of approval from Mitsuko’s occupational therapist, who the family met with before leaving Paris.
“The occupational therapist was very happy with our 3D printed devices,” gushed Thierry. “Mitsuko will continue to use the first hand for a few weeks or even months because it is tighter and easier for her to move. Then she will switch to the larger hand when her wrist is stronger and can manipulate it much more easily!”
The e-NABLE Community consists of volunteers from all over the world, each dedicated to providing 3D printed hands and arms for those in need.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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