Indianapolis minister first to get revolutionary prosthetic
A German-designed device is the closest thing yet to mimic the human hand.
While there are several things that make the Michelangelo Hand the best prosthesis yet. Engineers say it's the thumb that is the key. West side minister Dave Wigington is ready to put it to use.
After months of measurements, Wigington finally got his chance to use his new right hand after an accident in high school.
"It absolutely transformed my life. I was 16, my arm became entangled in a meat grinder. There was no guard on the machine," Wigington said.
His daughter, Mandy Cooper, hesitates before shaking her father's hand - a lifetime first.
"He's never been able to shake with that hand," she said.
It closes naturally and not too tight.
"That is a first experience for both of us," Wigington said.
His prosthetic trainer from Vienna intimately understands the loss and what patients can gain with the unique technology.
"Less than 100 people around the world have this hand," said Martin Wehrle.
Electrodes in the Michelangelo Hand by Otto Bock read impulses from Dave's muscles to make movement.
"Think about what you want to do, then contract your muscle in this direction, relax to closing," Wehrle said.
Now, it require concentration.
"What I'm doing to open is this motion. What I am doing to close is this motion," Wigington demonstrates.
"We need around 40,000-60,000 repetitions, (so) that we don't think about it anymore," Wehrle said.
The precise movements possible now are due in part to a first of its kind active thumb. It can move through various axes and is what makes the hand's revolutionary and complex movements, like paging through a magazine, grabbing a large drink or passing an object possible.
"This Michelangelo is quantum leaps ahead of anything I have ever been able to do before," Wigington said.
The hope is, with training, Wigington can reclaim his position as the family photographer.
"I'm excited that he gets to experience this," Cooper said.
Wigington is the first patient with the device in Indiana, but after he is fitted with a flesh-covered glove, you might not notice.
"We have never had this before, where the prosthesis looks like a hand," Wehrle said. "So if you touch this hand, there are no hard structures anymore."
"I'm very excited and thrilled that it has come my way," Wigington said.
The prosthesis costs nearly $75,000, with worker's compensation picking up the tab.