Back when he was a 17-year-old high school student, Ian Davis built a mechanical hand for a school project. Little did he know his invention would return to change his life in the future.
In a strange twist of fate, the engineer lost four fingers from his dominant hand 25 years later and found himself in need of a prosthetic.
In 2017, Ian was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that attacks the body’s immune system and leads to bones breaking easily. Then his hand was injured.
“Last November, I had an accident at my shop where I broke a couple of bones in my hand,” Ian said. “It went from getting pins [in my hand] to, ‘you’re not healing,’ to a bone infection, blood infection, septicemia, to ‘you’re going to die.’”
The only way to stay alive was to have his four digits amputated, so he went through with the surgery. Soon, he found out that insurance would only cover the enormous cost of a prosthetic if the palm of his hand was also missing. Without the financial support, there was no way he could afford to have a working hand.
“I’ve been a maker for forever, a long time. Then all of a sudden you can’t do that anymore,” Ian said. “The cancer was a career-ender, and this just put the icing on the cake.”
But he refused to give up! While he was still recovering in the hospital, he drafted his first prosthetic hand blueprint. He used the project to pass the time and keep his mind active, but he also had a driving need to work with his hands again.
By the time he got home in March, he had designed a prototype and was testing out his new mechanical fingers!
“The first time that I was able to pick stuff up again, it’s magical,” he said.
He has been working on perfecting his hand ever since, adding functionality that even high-tech prosthetics can’t offer. These days, he can splay and pinch his fingers with a simple motion of his wrist.
Impressively, his prosthetic requires no electricity to work, relying on elastic, chains, rods, and other mechanical tools to operate. And this creation is just the beginning! Ian plans to take his design even further and eventually get it out to other people experiencing the same problem.
Now this is some next-level problem solving! It’s strange to think that a school project all those years ago would encourage this kind of ingenuity. His prosthetic could help so many people!
See Ian’s hand at work in the video below, and don’t forget to share this story.
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