Since Lexi Briggs lost part of her hand in a lawnmower accident five years ago, the seven-year-old has considered the amputation her "superpower".
- A community organisation develops a prosthetic hand prototype for young amputee, Lexi Briggs
- Instead of a $20,000 prosthetic, the hand cost $30 to make
- Technician says it is a cost-effective way for young people to use prosthetics
Prosthetic limbs don't come cheap and doctors at the time warned her Wide Bay family to expect to fork out up to $20,000 for a prosthetic hand.
Fast forward a few years and with the magic of 3D printing, a community organisation in Bundaberg is making Lexi a prosthetic hand for a fraction of the cost.
"It has taken us almost six years to go down the road of [a] prosthetic. We were over the moon," Lexi's mum Janice Saker said.
Finding the right fit
Lexi's life revolved around hospital visits after her accident in the family's backyard in Bundaberg in 2017.
"We spent five weeks in hospital, and went in every three months for reviews, had continuous surgeries, and they did skin grafting," Ms Saker said.
Lexi's doctors wanted to perform a transplant procedure that would reconstruct her thumb using her big toe.
"So, we decided to find other ways."
After years of searching for a cost-effective prosthetic, the solution presented itself close to home.
"We tried looking everywhere and didn't know my work actually does the 3D printing," she said.
Low-cost option close to home
Bundaberg's Community Lifestyle Support offers disability and allied health support to the region.
Lexi was referred to her mum's colleague, Emmerson Ysayama, who is a 3D printer technician.
"The challenge with Lexi was that real prosthetics are very expensive. She's still in the growth process," Mr Ysayama said.
"In a year's time, she would have to develop another prosthetic and it would become very expensive.
"So, we decided to go the 3D printing approach because it's a very low-cost prosthetic."
Mr Ysayama found the right fit for Lexi through a process of trial and error.
"We have downloaded the file for the hand and we have been manipulating it until we get her fit, and so when she grows out of it we're just going to repeat the same process.
"It will be ongoing until she's not going to grow anymore and then she goes for a definite prosthetic."
Mr Ysayama said 3D printing created more cost-effective opportunities for young people to have a prosthetic limb.
"This is a good beginning and it gives the kids a chance to have a prosthetic earlier in life," he said.
"This is just the prototype. We have been working on this since November, making sure it fits, it doesn't hurt, that we have an OT (occupational therapist) onsite to get guidance."
The Wonder Woman Project
While the prototype was further developed, the group decided on a name for Lexi's case.
"We're calling it the Wonder Woman Project. She told Mummy she feels like a superwoman," Ms Saker said.
"So she's picked her colours for [the prosthetic]."
"Gold, red, blue, like Wonder Woman!" Lexi said.
After mastering picking up phones and water bottles with the prototype, Lexi has her sights on life with a new hand.
"I'm very excited for cartwheels, and handstands, proper back bends, and karate," she said.