Woman uses bionic hand for first time – before it’s even fitted to her arm

webnexttech | Woman uses bionic hand for first time - before it's even fitted to her arm

A woman born with one arm has operated her bionic hand for the first time – before it’s even been fitted to her arm. Julie Norwood, 53, was born missing her lower left arm and hand. She never let it hold her back – and found alternative ways to do everyday tasks such as driving and cooking by relying on her right hand. But the mum-of-two, from Broadstairs, Kent, began to develop arthritis in 2020. Her right hand is now unable to grip and prevents her from doing lots of things – including administering her important medication for her type one diabetes. She was put in touch with Open Bionics last month and got to try a pioneering bionic ‘hero arm’. Despite never having operated a bionic arm before, she got the hang of it almost instantly. The sweet moment saw Julie moving the fingers using the sensors – before the hand was even put on her arm. Now Julie, who works as a checkout assistant, is trying to raise £20,000 so she can have a hero arm of her own. She said: “I try not to let things stop me, if someone says ‘you can’t do that’, I know it’s a challenge and I have to try. “But I’ve put so much strain on my hand over the years and now its deteriorating quickly. Not having my other hand makes everything so much harder and I’m so scared I’ll lose my independence. When I went to Open Bionics and tried the arm, I just burst into tears when I moved the fingers. “Getting one of my own would be lifechanging for me.” Julie always found ways around challenges growing up as she was missing part of her arm. As well as chopping food, cleaning, driving with an assisted car, and cycling, she had to find clever ways to administer her diabetes medications. But in 2020 she began to notice mobility in her hand decreasing, and more joint pain. Over the years it grew worse and early last year she was put on autoimmune medication for it, but she still suffers. Now, her hand is so arthritic that drawing up her syringe to administer insulin is near impossible. Chopping and cooking food, walking their two dogs and tying up her shoes are now major challenges. She relies on supportive husband Gary Norwood, 54, and children Kieran, 24, and Rhea, 19, but fears she’ll lose the independence she fought so hard for growing up. Julie said: “Now I have to use a cup with two handles just to have a coffee – and I can’t take the dogs for a walk as I can’t hold the lead any more. I can’t grip a kitchen knife any more – Gaz hates the way I cut food because he’s terrified the knife will slip.” After trialling the Open Bionics hero arm she now dreams of having her own. She said: “When I tried the arm, I cried. I’ve never seen fingers move on my left hand side. I saw them move – I don’t give a monkey’s that I couldn’t feel them move – and I thought ‘wow, that’s me, I did that!’. But at the minute, a £20,000 price tag stands in her way, as Open Bionics arms are not available on the NHS. She added: “If my right hand goes, I’m knackered, I wouldn’t be able to do anything for myself. I wouldn’t be able to work, or drive, or dress myself. I would need someone to cut my food up for me, like I’m a toddler. I don’t think I could live like that after I’ve worked so hard being independent.” “Gaz and my children are my rocks but I’d feel like a burden to everyone. £20,000 feels like a mountain but this would be lifechanging for me.” Visit the fundraiser on the GoFundMe page.

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