An eight-year-old boy is the world’s youngest person to be fitted with a bionic ‘hero arm’ – and celebrated by eating his favourite burger with two hands for the first time.
Freddie Payne was given his new arm days before his eighth birthday and was thrilled to be able to pick up his beloved hamburger – with added ketchup – at his birthday party.
The arm is the first medically approved prosthesis in Britain which allows for precise and delicate movements that other prosthetic hands cannot do.
The device weighs less than a bag of sugar and has enabled active Freddie – who was born without a right hand – to be able to grip the handlebars of his favourite scooter and climb with his friends.
He has even enjoyed playing with a toy with his pet dog Lacie.
Last week, he carried both his book bag and lunchbox out of the school gates – shouting to his mum, Suzy Cook, ‘Look what I can do now mum!’
Suzy, 42, said the device has completely changed the life of her son.
She said: “It is brilliant. Freddie has become much more conscious about his hand recently so this is incredible, he really wanted to be able to eat a burger just like all of his friends.
“As soon as he put on the arm he realised what to do, it was immediate. It will change his life.”
Freddie has been described as a ‘tech pioneer’ by Open Bionics – the company who create the ‘hero arms’ – as the world’s youngest user of a multi-grip bionic arm.
When Freddie was born Suzy was told by private doctors it would be ‘over 20 years’ before technology became available which could replicate the movements of fingers.
However, Freddie’s dream was fitted with the bionic limb on March 28 – two days before his eighth birthday.
The budding youngster had tried a prosthetic hand in the past but Suzy described it as ‘doll-like’ with no movement.
Finally Suzy spotted Tilly Lockey – a 12-year-old girl who is the ambassador for Open Bionics and recipient of two ‘hero’ arms – on Good Morning Britain and realised this prosthetic was exactly what her son needed.
She said: “We had already begun the process of looking into private options but I remember spotting Tilly on television.
“She could do so much with her hands. I never thought at that stage anything could be done because of his age.
“When I found out Open Bionics decided to take him on as the youngest in the world I could not believe it.”
Freddie, who lives with Suzy, his sister Megan, 12, and Suzy’s fiancee Nathan Darlick, 43, was fitted with the £10k arm – self-funded by his family – at the end of March 2019.
Speaking about his new arm, the brave boy said: “I was so excited to use my new arm.
“It has let me do loads of new things with my friends and play like anyone else.
“I used to have to use an old prosthetic arm which linked me to my scooter handlebars but now I can grip it like anyone else.
“I love that I can high five everyone and shake my mum’s hand”.
Suzy said Freddie had started to become ‘conscious’ of not having a right hand as he grew older.
She added: “As he grew up it wasn’t too much of an issue and he got by.
“In recent years as he has got older, Freddie started to notice it more and he became a bit more conscious he didn’t have a right hand like everybody else.”
Suzy couldn’t believe how quickly Freddie began to use the arm.
She said: “We were all chatting away in the room when he first put it on.
“Within about a minute, Freddie had worked out how to make the ‘blah blah blah’ sign with his fingers which we all thought was so funny.
“Freddie shook my hand almost straight away, it worked immediately. It was such an incredible moment.
“He came up to me recently and said ‘Mum, I can be like everybody else now’. It is his new normality.”
Freddie, from Bracknell, Berks., celebrated his birthday at a trampoline park before going to the cinema and to eat his favourite burger.
He has spent the past three weeks learning how to make new movements with his hand.
Suzy, a beautician, said: “At first his school were a little sceptical because he had apparently told his friends the arm would have lasers on, which is funny.
“However, when they realised what it was all about, they have been brilliant.
“We’re overwhelmed with how well everything has turned out.”
Samantha Payne, co-founder and COO at Open Bionics said: “We’re incredibly excited to fit eight year old Freddie with our smallest ever bionic arm.
“With the Hero Arm, we wanted to create a bionic technology that was very advanced but also available, democratically, to the masses.
“As the world’s youngest user of a multi-grip bionic arm, Freddie is a tech pioneer.”