A 25-year-old woman born without a right forearm has been fitted with a £10k bionic arm, leading her pupils to dub her a ‘super teacher’.
Vikki Smith, from Berkshire, was born without a right forearm just below her elbow and has used NHS prosthetic limbs since she was three months.
But the primary school teacher says as she got older her old prosthetic arm became more about image rather than the function of it.
This meant she was unable to use a knife and fork at the same time and had struggled to do more than one task at a time in her job.
However, after receiving a new electronic limb on June 15, Vikki can now enjoy a meal on her own, hold books at school and curl her hair without fear of burning herself.
And the pupils at Thatcham Park School have also been left impressed with their teacher’s new arm, describing her as a ‘super teacher’ because of her new ‘robot arm’.
The prosthetic is made using a state-of-the-art 3D printer and gives amputees never before experienced dexterity.
It works by picking up signals from muscles in the user’s residual limb.
“The Hero Arm is great,” Smith explains. “For the first time I was able to eat my tea with a knife and fork.
“I've only ever used a fork before and I was never able to cut anything.”
Smith goes on to say that the children in her classroom had the best reaction to her new arm.
“The kids have been really funny,” she explains. “When I came in with it they were amazed.
“They're always trying to get me to do things.
“They were chatting between themselves and came up with the phrase super teacher because it's like a robot arm.”
The teacher also hopes her new arm will help promote inclusiveness among the Year Three children she teaches.
“I wanted to be an inspiration for the kids, to show every child I teach they are special and can overcome anything,” she explains.
“It's helped me build confidence - before I didn’t want to talk about it and didn’t want to talk about what was different with me.
“I never walked around with my prosthetic on show but now I’ve talked about my new arm with the kids.
“If I'm confident in my difference then if there is something different about them they can be confident about it.”
Smith says she was initially apprehensive about the Hero Arm because it is so heavy compared to her old arm.
“But when I put my old one back on I missed [the Hero Arm] within seconds. I love it.
“Now I can do so many things all at once. I can carry cups, hold a piece of paper and write on the board at the same time.
“Instead of trying to balance books on my arm, I can actually hold them.
“I can even curl my hair easily - I’ve got a burn mark on my face from when I tried to curl my hair before and now I can do it easily.
“You can tell my new arm is bionic and different but I'm so proud of it. I want to show it off, I want people to like it.”
Smith initially approached OpenBionics after she saw teenage brand ambassador, Tilly Lockey on Facebook.
The youngster has a Hero Arm after losing both of her hands to meningitis as a little girl.
Fortunately Vikki discovered she was eligible for a funding scheme and became the first recipient of a Hero Arm donated by The Worshipful Company of Glovers
As part of their charitable aims, “The Glovers” are donating prosthetic hands and arms to selected applicants who have been unable to get help from the NHS or through other means.
“I will forever be grateful for them because they have changed my life forever,” Smith adds.
Jonathan Isaacs, the chair of the Glovers Prosthetics Working Group, said: “We chose Vikki as our first Hero Arm candidate as we recognised that it would be a life changing opportunity for her in her personal and work life.
“We recognised her ability to project positivity in overcoming difficulties and her determination to encourage inclusivity.”
Samantha Payne, COO and Co-Founder of Open Bionics, said: “We’re so grateful to the Worshipful Company of Glovers for funding a Hero Arm for Vikki.
“The Hero Arm is the world’s most affordable multi-grip bionic arm and manufactured at a price point that’s affordable enough for NHS healthcare.
“Until the Hero Arm is available on the NHS, there are many people in the UK crowdfunding for better prosthetic devices.
“If you’re an upper limb amputee interested in the Hero Arm, please sign up on our website and we’ll support you with raising funds,” she adds.
Additional reporting SWNS.