A father who lost his right hand and both legs to meningitis at just five years old has got a £10k bionic Hero Arm – to help him look after his young son in time for Christmas.
Danny Florence, 26, has struggled to complete every day tasks like bathing, feeding and changing the nappy of one-year-old Joshua since becoming a father for the first time last year.
He was just five when he contracted meningitis, which quickly turned into septicaemia.
The condition causes bacteria to enter the bloodstream and multiply, damaging the walls of the blood vessels. This can reduce blood flow to major organs.
It can lead to organ failure, skin and tissue damage and the loss of limbs.
His right hand, three of the fingers on his left hand and both of his lower legs were amputated as a result.
He gets around with the use of prosthetic legs, an electric wheelchair and help from friends.
Danny said he suffered as a youngster because he could not do the things his friends were doing, but had always avoided having a prosthetic arm fitted as he did not like how they looked.
However, when his fiancé Danielle Lilley, 25, gave birth to their first child last year, the fact he could not help out with more dexterous tasks including feeding affected his ability to bond with his precious boy.
He hopes his new “Hero Arm” – manufactured by Bristol-based Open Bionics and fitted on Monday, December 16 – will allow him take on a more active role in looking after Joshua, who turned one last week.
Danny said: “It was just an incredible feeling having the arm fitted. It’s amazing. It’s a really nice way to end what has been a really tough year.
“It’s the best Christmas present I could have asked for.
“The day I got it, I wrote Joshua’s name and I haven’t been able to write for a long time because of the pain.”
Danny said not being able to console Joshua when he cries has had a detrimental effect on his ability to bond with him.
And he said girlfriend of five years Danielle has become “more of a carer” than a partner.
Danny added: “When I had my little boy, I realised there was a lot I couldn’t do, and that led me to actually do something about it.
“He’s not as close to me as you’d expect a little lad to be with his dad. He doesn’t look to me as his primary care giver.
“When he cries, I can’t console him because he just wants his mum because she does everything for him.
“She couldn’t leave me alone for ten minutes with him because I couldn’t do things that need two hands.
“And I struggled to do things that only need one hand because I’ve got nerve damage.
“I think my arm will help me in my role as a Dad in many, many ways. Confidence-wise it will, because if Joshua needs me to do anything, I should be able to.
“For example, when he’s a bit older and needs to fasten a zip on his coat, I should be able to do it.
“It sounds disgusting, but I want to be able to change his nappy.
“I want to be able to feed him, because holding a spoon hurts my hand as well.”
Danny said he hopes his new arm can help him create memories with his son as he grows older – and will help him care for any future babies the couple have.
He added: “I always imagined myself being a dad and doing things like playing crazy golf or playing tennis.
“I’ve never been able to do that, but hopefully once I’ve mastered the arm I can do things like that.”
The Hero Arm is the most affordable multi-grip bionic limb in the world, less than half the price of its nearest competitor.
Each arm is custom-built using innovative technologies such as 3D printing and scanning.
The Hero Arm works by picking up signals from muscles in his residual limb.
When Danny puts on his bionic arm and flexes muscles just below his elbow, special sensors detect tiny naturally generated electric signals and convert these into intuitive and proportional bionic hand movement.
He had raised a third of the £10,000 needed for the bionic arm and hit his target when manufacturers Maxon Motors made a generous donation.
The only way to buy one is through a private prosthetics clinic but Daniel, of Durham, hopes to see the Hero Arm available on the NHS soon.
He added: “Seeing the arm – you get an overwhelming sense when you first see it. I then got to try it on and, like magic, I got it to work pretty much straight away.
“It’s very smart. Previously I’ve had a very ugly static hand and this is a very, very nice looking hand.
“The experience of getting fitted is incredible. You have these expectations, and it exceeds them all.
“My hope for the future is that a lot more people have these accessible to them.
“Not having a hand can not only cause you to be unable to do things, but it affects you up here as well.
“My message to people who might be considering getting a Hero Arm is ‘Do it.’. Don’t wait – go for it, because it will change your life.”