I first spoke to Courtney in April 2008 when she called to enquire about the I-Limb hand. Two months later we finally met at Darryl Grobbelaar’s rooms in Durban for the initial consultation. I had no idea of the lesson I was about to learn on the joy of giving and the importance of community kindness. It was obvious that the shortness of the residual limb would be a challenge, as well as identifying muscle sites to place the electrodes. During this first session Courtney struggled to activate the two muscle groups individually.
Then Courtney told us that the Mooi River community had taken her plight to heart and was raising the funds to finance the prosthesis! It made me more determined to achieve a good result. When people hear words like bionic hand they expect it to be better (and stronger) than a natural hand, so we took time to explain the reality. We worried that Mooi River would raise the money only to discover that the prosthesis was not functional.
Her wants were realistic. She wanted to be able to do tasks, like peeling a potato, without having to press things against her body with her shortened fore arm. Courtney had never used her elbow and I was worried about her elbow strength. After consultation with my colleagues, Stephan Kritzinger agreed to donate of his time and expertise, and Courtney and I went to Cape Town for him to determine her ability to use the prosthesis. We spent two days with Stephan during which time we tested for muscle signal.
The test results gave us the confidence to move forward knowing that Courtney had the ability to be a prosthetic user. We also made two diagnostic sockets. Courtney went home where her job was to work on her muscles and to learn to activate the two groups of muscle separately. In November 2009 I went to visit my friend, Peter Keen, who farms in Mooi River. I was also looking to buy a horse. I discovered that Pete’ daughters attended school with Courtney. Pete was aware that I was involved with Courtney’s prosthesis. With no strings attached and out of the
Conversations with Courtney
Being born this way has never been easy but, with my positive attitude, and with the help of my loving and supportive family and friends, it does make it a lot easier to deal with, and I have always found ways to overcome any obstacles. Since getting my arm, my life has completely changed for the better! It is a huge adjustment after being so one arm dominant for all of my life but it is definitely a good adjustment.
I am so ecstatic with my new arm and each day I am finding new ways in which to do things. I find that I am able to do more of the little things that some people may take for granted. For example: pushing a trolley in the supermarket, opening a bottle (I used to have to squeeze it against my body with my arm while unscrewing it with my good hand), unzipping my purse, holding a piece of paper whilst typing, stapling papers together etc...
It has affected my life in ways I can’t even begin to describe. Not only has it helped me with physical obstacles but also with self-esteem. I am feeling so much more confident. The I-Limb is so life-like that I don’t try to hide my arm anymore. I feel complete! I am so grateful to everybody who helped me to achieve my dream: the community members of Mooi River, the wonderful committee who helped to raise the funds and gave so much of their time and to everyone who contributed to the fund.
I’d like to say a special thank you to Allan Oates at Prosthetic Solutions who provided an excellent service and did his utmost best to ensure that this was an easy transition for me. I am confident that with my new arm, I will continue to go from strength to strength. The sky is the limit!
On a Limb
Kindness of his heart, Pete gave me and a friend of mine each a horse. Pete doesn’t know it yet but when I got back to George I discussed this spirit of giving at work and decided that, because I had not paid any money for the horse, I would make Courtney’s prosthesis, and do the first refit, at no charge to her or Mooi River! We took delivery of Courtney’s hand and flew to ISPO in Leipzig where they launched the new Pulse hand. I was devastated – I hadn’t even fitted her hand and it was already outdated.
That’s when Touch Bionics came to the party and told us to return the old model and they would replace it with the latest model at no extra cost! Darryl offered us his practice to make the prosthesis but our schedules were star crossed and, in the end, we paid for Courtney, her dad and her boyfriend to come to George for the week and to be part of the process. Courtney had worked hard at her training to activate the muscles and her stump was smaller and leaner. The sockets I had made with Stephan no longer suited and I made two more sockets before I was happy with the fit. Courtney finally received her long awaited prosthesis two days before her 21st birthday, an amazing gift from an amazing community.