A life-changing challenge for Brighton Eagle Lab
When Adrian Parker took his daughter to the Barclays Eagle Lab near their home in Brighton for a half-term project, he posed the team with an unusual challenge.
Rilee, who turned four on New Year’s Eve, was born without a left hand and although she is well used to managing, Adrian wondered how a prosthetic arm might give her more freedom.
“We were looking at the 3D printer and talking about what kinds of things they could make and I said: ‘My daughter might make a good subject for you’,” he says. “I put it out there half not expecting to hear anything back.”
To his surprise, the team were up for the challenge. “3D printing an arm is much cheaper and faster than the traditional methods,” says Jon Paterson, lab technician at Brighton Eagle Lab. “It’s about taking these simple measurements, adapting your model, pressing print and that gives you a finished version.
“Rilee is a really cute little four-year-old. We do a lot of ‘Make Special’ events so this was my ‘Make Special’ – to make Rilee a hand.”
It’s one of those moments that will stick with you. To strap on this arm and then instantly she’s grabbing and using her wrist. It’s what I do my job for. It’s the reason I turn up every day. To do these little golden moments.
Lab Technician at Brighton Eagle Lab
Describing the moment – captured in the film below – when he first presented and fitted the new arm to Rilee in September last year, Jon says: “(It) was amazing. It’s one of those moments that will stick with you. To strap on this arm and then instantly she’s grabbing and using her wrist. It’s what I do my job for. It’s the reason I turn up every day. To do these little golden moments.”
Adrian says it has made all the difference to his daughter, who can now do everyday tasks that most of us take for granted. “She uses it when you need two hands to grip, for example when she’s taking the lid off a pen,” he says. “Now she can hold the pen in her prosthetic hand and take the lid off with her right hand.”
Using a knife and fork, picking up a tennis racket and ball and generally playing with toys are all easier – and her parents say the arm also helps her keep up with her ten-year-old brother, Finley, and eight-year-old sister, Lily.
But Adrian, who is himself a Barclays employee, working in Brighton as a Premier Banking manager, says the knowledge that the team will support them in future is even more important
“It’s going to be an ongoing thing,” he says. “At the moment Rilee just gets on with it like any four-year-old, with or without her new arm. But there will come a time – when she starts school later this year, for example - when she has more awareness of being different and starts to question it more.
“Working with the guys at Eagle Labs has been absolutely amazing. They have been great at getting to known Rilee and we’ve built some really good close friends here now. It’s amazing to know that as she grows and progresses, gets the strength to use the arm more and needs adjustments, there’s always an open door for her to go back there. For Rilee, that’s going to be brilliant going forward.”