Future Bionics Stories
Billy, a 10-year-old was very happy when he received his new bionic arm. As a boy with dreams of riding a bike and scooter, Billy was unfortunately born with limb differences to his right arm and hand. His right arm is shorter than the left and he has limited movement.
Apart from the arm, his hands were also very small with two fingers and a thumb which do not work. As a child he always thought one day his arm and fingers would grow the same as others, but it didn’t.
During his childhood he was bullied in school but never once retaliated to them. He used to be all by himself. That was when he shared with his parents that one of his greatest dreams was to have a bionic arm which would make his life more normal and improve the quality of the life, he is living in.
The bionic arm gave Billy a new life. He goes for fishing and shooting pigeons with his dad. Moreover, after receiving the bionic arm, he started riding his bike and scooter.
15-year-old Alan received his new bionic Hero Arm for his right hand in April 2021. Alan is an aspiring young man from Swansea, Wales, who has dreams and aspirations similar to those of other young men of his age.
Alan was born with a congenital heart defect and had 40 surgeries performed. At the age of 2, he had a major open-heart surgery operation, and in the aftermath, he caught a rare infection. The fingers on both of his hands turned black due to lack of blood circulation. In order to save Alan’s life, doctors had to amputate and remove both of his hands.
Speaking to the Express, Alan’s mother Hannah said: “We were told three times that he wasn’t going to pull through, which was devastating. The whole family came down to his bedside to say goodbye, but each time he pulled through and got stronger and stronger. But we always knew that his hands couldn’t be saved, so we had to come to terms with that. The most important thing was that he survived. It seemed like a miracle when he was finally able to come home again with us.”
Because of the loss of his hands, Alan was unable to enjoy most of the activities that a youngster might do, like riding a bicycle. But he has been triumphant and succeeded in many other trials of life, and has been nominated for several awards in recognition of his courage.
Alan had struggled with the NHS prosthetic limbs for several years as they were heavy, with no grip. In 2021 Alan received his bionic Hero Arm from the Tej Kohli Foundation, which is funded by philanthropist and businessman Tej Kohli. The 3-D printed Hero Arm was first of its kind to be clinically approved and was developed by Bristol-based Open Bionics.
Upon receiving the news that Alan was going to receive a Hero Arm, his Mum Hannah said: “This is incredible news and we are so grateful as we have never had financial support to this degree before.”
With the new bionic arms, Alan is more confident, determined and independent with performing daily tasks. “Alan is finding it much easier to do things now. He has always longed to ride a bike. Now he can grip the handlebars – it’s so much better. He’s thrilled to be able to get on a bike like other lads his age” says Alan’s mum Hannah to the Express.
2021 marked the one-year anniversary of the #FutureBionics program. The project has been successful in giving confidence, independence and new life to young people like Alan.
Gracie, an aspiring actress was born with congenital limb differences, meaning her left arm was missing below the elbow. Initially, her Mum Helen was worried about how Gracie would be treated and whether she would be bullied at school, however as Helen says in a video for the Tej Kohli Foundation: “It didn’t take long for Gracie’s personality to start to show”.
Gracie had owned a prosthetic arm from the NHS since she was 5 months old but stopped wearing it. Speaking to Metro about her previous NHS arms, Gracie said: “I felt these arms were just the most hideous things. They were bulky and just a weird colour that was not anyone’s skin tone. It didn’t serve any purpose, other than to fill my sleeve as I couldn’t actually use it to do anything.”
As she got older, Gracie got more involved with musical theatre and became very aware that there were not many stars like her performing on stage. That didn’t stop Gracie from pursuing her dreams as she graduates from The BRIT School and started studying at The Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.
In a post on City AM, Gracie writes that: “My desire is to single-handedly (pardon the pun) introduce more disability into theatre and performance and my hope is that I can show other ‘disabled’ young people that it can be done and encourage them to pursue their own ambitions on stage”.
Gracie received her new bionic arm from Tej Kohli at the Tej Kohli. The 3D-printed Hero Arm was developed by Bristol-based Open Bionics and have been applauded by clinicians and healthcare providers for its precise and delicate movements.
Gracie was shocked and overwhelmed at first when she got accepted by the Tej Kohli foundation for the #FutureBionics program. She had just begun her new performing arts c course in London and on her interview with The Mirror, she said: “I’m ecstatic. It will help me achieve roles I wouldn’t have been given having just one arm.”
Gracie is now very optimistic about leading a bionic life and believes that she can make a positive impact on society. In her interview with Metro, she said: “The most important thing for me, is that if I am cast with this arm, there will be disabled kids coming to see shows and seeing something that they might be able to connect with. Theatre should reflect the society that we live in.”
In the early months of 2021, Tej Kohli Foundation marked its first anniversary of the #FutureBionics program. Gracie is now continuing her studies in theatre and performance and she is not afraid to face any new roles. Marking the one year of being bionic, Gracie’s mom Ellen said to PRNewswire: “I secretly knew from about age 6 that Gracie was walking out of the door and placing her prosthetic arm into her school bag as she left. But the Hero Arm can do things that regular prosthetics cannot and now Gracie feels confident and ready to take on the world!”
Jacob from Lancashire was 10 years old when he received his new bionic arm. An aspiring guitarist and a keen rugby player, Jacob was born limb different because of amniotic band syndrome. But this never stopped him from taking on anything! Jacob plays for a rugby club in Blackburn and is very proud of it.
After years of struggling with an NHS prosthetic limb, in December 2019, Jacob received a Christmas gift from Tej Kohli at the Tej Kohli Foundation in the form of a bionic ‘Hero Arm’. The 3D-printed Hero Arm is the first clinically approved prosthesis in the UK and is highly regarded for its precise and delicate movement. It was developed by Bristol-based Open Bionics.
Shortly after receiving his new bionic arm, the Tej Kohli Foundation arranged for Jacob to fulfil one of his dreams by becoming a mascot for the England Rugby Team during a Six Nations match at Twickenham. Jacob showed his bionic arm to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and got to meet his Rugby heroes before walking out onto the pitch with them.
Speaking to the Daily Mail about receiving a Hero Arm, Jacob’s mum Katherine said: “We couldn’t believe it. It was like a dream come true for Jacob. He has managed to adapt to not having a left arm, but this Hero Arm is going to massively help him. His NHS arm was heavy and made his arm tired, so he didn’t like wearing it. But he thinks this is wonderful to wear, and so much more comfortable – it’s like having a hand for him, rather than just a grip.”
“Jacob can control the fingers with the help of the muscles in his upper arm and he feels like the arm is a part of him, compared to the NHS arms which were a lot heavier,” says Jacob’s dad David speaking to The Telegraph.
In early 2021 the Tej Kohli Foundation marked the first anniversary of the #FutureBionics program. Jacob continues to play rugby with his bionic arm, and it has also helped to increase his confidence. Marking the one year, Jacob’s Mum Katherine said to PR Newswire: “Jacob was interested in learning the guitar when he was in primary school, but was told that it wasn’t practical. He was very upset. Now with his bionic arm, he is finally learning to play the guitar. Jacob’s motivation and confidence have grown beyond belief this year and he is very thankful to the Tej Kohli Foundation for bringing a bright change to his life.”