3D printed hand changes everything for Port boy

Josh McKenna from Ceskin Court, Portarlington is taking fame in his stride, having become Ireland’s first recipient of a free 3D printed hand.

Josh McKenna from Ceskin Court, Portarlington is taking fame in his stride, having become Ireland’s first recipient of a free 3D printed hand.

Josh hit national headlines last week, with his colourful ‘terminator style’ hand, made by Tallaght Institute of Technology staff and students.

He is enjoying his fame.

“It’s good, I hope other kids are helped too,” he told the Leinster Express.

His new hand has given him more independence.

“I like the way it helps me to ride my bike, and I am able to pick up big things,” said Josh, who turns 11 this month and is going into 5th Class in St Paul’s BNS.

“He takes it all in his stride,” said his mother Annette, who hopes the publicity will help other children like her son.

Josh was born with just a thumb on his right hand, after amniotic tissue became wrapped around his hand in the womb, stopping his fingers from developing.

“About five years ago he had a toe to hand transplant, to where his pinkie finger should be, so that he has a little pincer. He had only just started school in the Presentation Primary. He never looked back, he never called it his toe, it was his finger. He could pick up lego and play, it was never a problem and nobody ever commented,” Annette said.

The only problem was that Josh is right handed, and has to concentrate much harder to write with his left hand.

Last October Annette read an article about a boy in America getting a 3D printed hand from a charity called Enable the Future. She filled out a form and early this year got an email from Stephen Dignam, a lecturer in Tallaght IT, to tell her the charity had matched them up to help create a new hand for Josh.

Josh’s dad Chris sent off measurements and a photo and last February they went to the IT to collect the hand, which was printed out on a 3D printer, and internally connected with fishing wire and elastic.

“The hand was good to go. Josh put it on, picked up a coffee cup and put it in the bin. it is second nature to him now. He hasn’t done much housework since though,” Annette said laughing.

She brought him into school in St Paul’s NS to explain to the principal Pat Galvin that the new hand, coloured black red and yellow, was not a toy.

“He couldn’t get over it, he was blown away. Josh walked into his classroom cool as you like, held up his hand and said ‘hia’, the boys were amazed,” his mother said.

Josh will keep receiving newer versions of the hand as he grows, with the latest one in bronze and orange to match his bike, which he reports is more comfortable to wear.

“It is the best thing I ever did. I am sure more children in Ireland could be helped. It is all free once someone has a 3D printer, so there is nothing to stop anybody getting in touch to say they need help,” said Annette, who has two other children, Lauren aged 21 and Leah, 13.

Enabling the Future volunteers deliver free colourful 3D printed e-NABLE “Helper hands” to children and adults around the world. To donate or learn more, see enablingthefuture.org