Touch Bionics, provider of advanced prosthetic technologies, and the MERCEDES GP PETRONAS Formula One Team today revealed that Matthew James, a 14-year old who was born without a left hand, has been successfully fitted with the i-LIMB™ Pulse, the world’s leading electronic prosthetic hand.

Matthew is studying at Reading School, the same school MERCEDES GP PETRONAS Team Principal, Ross Brawn, attended and still supports and visits on a regular basis. Matthew is a big fan of Formula One and lives a normal teenage life, except that he has a lower arm deficiency which means that his left arm stops at his wrist.

In a letter to Ross, an amazingly funny, honest and mature one for a boy of his age, Matthew explained how his current prosthetic hand only allows him to perform basic tasks with a simple open and close grip mechanism.

Matthew also explained that his target now was to be able to afford a more functional prosthetic arm, and he already had in mind a specific model: The i-LIMB™ Pulse. Developed by Touch Bionics, the new hand would give him more control and freedom, and a much greater range of motions. The only issue: the hand is very expensive and is not generally available through the NHS.

Ross and the team were so moved by his unique letter that they got in touch with Matthew and his dad, Robert. After a few phone calls, a factory tour was organised for Matthew, and at the same time, a technical representative from the team contacted Touch Bionics to start initial discussions on what could be done to help Matthew.

Since then the two companies have established a positive relationship and, in exchange for access to technology services that have benefited its research and development team, Touch Bionics was pleased to offer its clinical services for the fitting of Matthew’s i-LIMB™ Pulse, free of charge.

“We were moved by Matthew’s story, and once MERCEDES GP PETRONAS showed how they would be able to work positively with our development team, then we were happy to waive our clinical services fee,” said John Huntley, UK clinical manager at Touch Bionics.

A privately funded fitting of the i-LIMB™ Pulse usually costs over £25,000, and the clinical services component of the fitting is the largest proportion of this cost.

To help Matthew raise £10,000 towards the remaining cost of the hand, the MERCEDES GP PETRONAS team is working closely with his family on their fundraising initiative. Matthew’s family have set up a fundraising web site to help raise the funds for his new prosthesis:

Ross Brawn, Team Principal of the MERCEDES GP PETRONAS Formula One Team, said: “Matthew’s letter to the team was very touching, and of particular personal significance given my close relationship to Reading School, which both Matthew and I have attended. Looking closely at the i-LIMB™ Pulse, we realised how much our technologies in Formula One had in common with those used to create this cutting-edge prosthetic limb, and that we may be able to offer some synergies to Touch Bionics to assist their invaluable research. Meeting Matthew, and hearing firsthand how the new device would improve his quality of life, was a pleasure and I am delighted that our initial contact has now led to such a positive conclusion.”

Matthew explains in detail the difference between his current prosthetic hand and the i-LIMB™ Pulse:

“My current arm has two sensors located at the end which literally pick up the impulses of the muscles in my lower arm. It is a simple ‘open and close’ mechanism, like a claw. The new hand, the i-LIMB™ Pulse, has five individual motors in each finger and therefore each finger can move individually. Whilst it is a open/close mechanism as well, it has different modes and settings which you can use to change the ‘opening mode’, so for example you can go from operating all fingers to using two and it locks the other three.”

Robert, Matthew’s very proud dad, explained how much Matthew is driven on a day to day basis:

“He always wanted to be the best he can. The arm he has at the moment gives him the basic functionality and what Matthew wants is to get that stage further. The i-LIMB™ Pulse really gives you more flexibility in what you can do with a prosthetic hand. You have a limb which looks more natural but also works in a much more natural way so you can pick up an object with the individually motored fingers. It’s about having the best tool available to allow Matthew to live his life and get on with what he wants to do.”

All this week, Matthew has been at Touch Bionics’ headquarters in Livingston, Scotland, working with the company’s expert team of clinicians to receive his i-LIMB™ Pulse prosthesis, and today he leaves as a proud wearer of the groundbreaking technology

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