I’ve written about the fantastic ideas and developments coming from the open source group, eNABLE. It’s an international group of makers developing prosthetics using 3D printers and other ingenious methods to make prosthetics more affordable and accessible. It’s redefining prosthetics and the expectations of what is possible for people in the limb difference world.
So recently, the U.S. Veteran’s Administration launched an Innovation Challenge – a three-city tour encouraging makers across the country to develop prosthetics and assistive devices that could benefit veterans. And whatever comes from the event, those developments will also be made available to the general public.
I’m kind of obsessed with what the VA is doing with this event. The whole idea is to amplify and accelerate the innovation process to help disabled veterans. You can see a list of the finalists ideas that will be part of the challenge this week in Richmond, Virginia. I am in Washington, DC this week for work, not far from Richmond. It absolutely kills me that work meetings will prevent me from attending this event. But if you are in the area, you are welcome to attend any time this Tuesday and Wednesday. The ultimate will be at 5pm on Wednesday, July 29th when the winners are announced. Seriously, if you’re in the area, please go for me. Tell me all about it. I’m so so sad to miss this awesome event. You can sign up online for free.
The goals of the event are incredible and I really hope I can continue to follow and eventually attend events like these. Any one of us can be the mind that develops the next awesome improvement for prosthetics and assistive devices. I can’t wait to see what happens after the VA Innovation Challenge.
Jordan has focused a lot of her prosthetic use on specific tasks – mainly activities like biking and kayaking. Her new joy with her new activity arm is using a scooter all over the place. But the biggest reason we use prosthetics is to help her body do more bi-manual motions – gross and fine motor. An activity arm can offer some of those movements, but it’s focused on specific tasks. It doesn’t have an elbow or offer Jordan a ton of reasons to move both of her arms equally.
That’s how her “elbow arm” comes into the picture. Before now, the arm has needed a sleeve to connect to her arm and the prosthetic has fit almost all the way up to her shoulder. She has worn a figure 8 harness over both shoulders to help manage the weight and function of the arm. That fit has helped her learn how to use a prosthetic but it has never been something she’s chosen to wear. It’s not that comfortable. It’s not that functional. But I’ve encouraged her to wear it a little a day to help her body function a little more like a two-handed body and give her shoulder time off. (She uses it most of the time like it’s her elbow. Shoulders weren’t made to function like elbows so it deserves a break.) We call it our “Winter the Dolphin theory.”
Fast forward to her newest arm that we’ve worked on building for the last week. Jordan is getting bigger and stronger and that means Dave Rotter, her prosthetist, is able to use different tools to build her new elbow arm. This time around, he’s using a plastic that can suction onto her arm without the use of the sleeve. It holds onto her bone to maintain the ability to hold an elbow, forearm and “hand.” Because it’s holding onto her arm so closely, it doesn’t need to fit as high up and that means Jordan has a tremendous amount of motion with the help of her arm’s rotation at the shoulder. Here’s an example:
To me, this video is so remarkable. Not only is she able to move better and use her hand for more fine motor skills, her shoulder harness that she uses to open and close the hand only needs to go around her right shoulder. It’s a figure 9 harness instead of a figure 8. That means fewer straps for Jordan to need to put over her clothes. A little extra style for a kids who is getting a little extra mindful about her style.
I’m stunned and excited about these developments and Jordan hasn’t even gotten the finished arm yet. That should happen later today before we leave Chicago. It’s so exciting. Next stop: Nubability Athletics camp so Jordan can focus more on her two favorite sports: basketball and softball.