Improving The Lives And Confidence Of Young People With Limb Difference Through “Hero Arm”

In 2019, Tej Kohli Foundation launched “Future Bionics” programme in the United Kingdom with the purpose of funding 3D-printed bionic arms for young people with limb differences. The foundation hopes that its commitment to fund bionic arms for 10 children will highlight how assistive technology can provide substantial improvements to the life of young children living with disabilities. 

In England, the National Health Service (NHS) provides a single-grip myoelectric-controlled prosthesis that costs about £8,000. The myoelectric prosthesis includes a motor and batteries to provide power to the device that is ultimately controlled by the input from electric signals generated by the muscles of the residual limb. When the muscles are contracted, an electrical signal is given off and sent to the controller. This will trigger movement that corresponds to what the user intends.  

Meanwhile, the Open Bionic Hero Arm is controlled by the electric signals generated by the user’s muscles. It has superior multi-grip functionality that allows a user to perform most of the everyday activities. At present, the Open Bionic Hero Arm costs about £10,000 through private prosthetics clinics in the UK. The more advanced multi-grip bionic hands are more expensive at £30,000 to £60,000. 

The Tej Kohli Foundation has spent an initial £100,000 in launching its first “Future Bionics” programme so that at least 10 British children will have access to a better life through technology. For some of the young recipients, a bionic arm is not just for aesthetics or confidence; it is a vital necessity to transform every aspect of their life. 

The first recipient of the 3D-printed Hero Arm is Jacob Pickering, a 10-year old from Blackburn. He was born with limb differences due to amniotic band syndrome. After years of struggling with the prosthetic limb from NHS, Jacob received a Christmas gift from Tej Kohli Foundation in the form of a bionic Hero Arm, the first clinically-approved prosthesis in the UK with precise and delicate movement. 

After receiving the Hero Arm, the foundation helped Jacob fulfil one of his dreams of being a mascot for the English Rugby Team during the Six Nations match at Twickenham. The NHS arm was too heavy for Jacob but he now feels more comfortable with the Hero Arm. He controls the fingers with the help of his muscles in the upper arm. Jacob’s motivation and confidence have grown significantly and he is grateful to the foundation for bringing him a better life. 

The lightweight Hero Arm is the only multi-grip myo prosthetic arm that is currently available for paediatric use. The enhanced ability of the user to personalize the 3D-printed Open Bionics Hero Arm is a huge improvement to the user’s mental well-being and perceived social acceptance. 

The gift of 10 bionic arms is the first project that Tej Kohli and his foundation have initiated in the United Kingdom. It is just the beginning of the goal to bring a positive difference to the life and confidence of disabled young children through technology. New technologies are now affordable and more accessible to non-profit organizations to bring them to young people who need them.