In the United States, a top leading cause of upper-limb amputation is related to trauma. This can stem from accidents, more specifically, agricultural accidents. Not only can these instances be traumatic for those unfortunately involved, but they also spell a shift in how daily life is lived, learning to adapt, and overcoming new challenges. Open Bionics exists to amplify the stories of those living with limb difference and provide them with care & support, whether they may be new or have been living with it for a long time. This week, we had the pleasure of chatting with Conor, a farmer who recently lost his left arm and is in the process of getting a Hero Arm through the Open Bionics Denver clinic.
Q: Can you tell us about yourself, your background, and hobbies?
A: I am 27 years old, and I’m from Northwest Kansas, out in the middle of nowhere. I usually tell people that our nearest Walmart supermarket is about an hour and a half away. I work on the farm with my dad, grandpa, and wife – that does take up most of our time. My wife and I have two kids, both under the age of three, and if we aren’t working on the farm, we spend time with them.
Q: What kind of animals do you have on your farm?
A: We raise cow-calf pairs, so we breed cows and then sell the babies once they reach maturity age. We have a couple of horses, working dogs that help us in the pastures with the cows, and one duck—which does whatever she wants.
Q: Pivoting into how you became limb different, are you comfortable sharing how your accident occurred and how you’ve taken steps on your recovery journey so far?
A: Yeah—so, the accident happened last December, I was just working on a piece of farming equipment, it happened to turn on while my hand was in the way, so that’s how I lost my hand. We rushed to our small-town hospital, and they did the best that they could to help but ended up flying me to Kansas City – KU Medical Center.
Q: What steps were taken at KU to help?
A: They tried twice to reattach the hand, both times were unsuccessful. The first time they tried, it lasted for a week, so we thought we were in the clear, but it started to go backwards. Blood was getting to the hand but wasn’t leaving it. The second try only lasted 16 hours, and so we decided on amputation.
Q: And what did the aftercare and rehabilitation look like after you went back home?
A: I just ended up meeting with my local family doctor for the recovery. I’ve had a few telehealth meetings with them, just because they are five hours away. It’s much easier to do telehealth.
Q: I’m sure it’s been a challenging time to assimilate and learn how to do things adaptively. Has your doctor put you through occupational therapy or other ways to learn how to adapt to life with one hand?
A: It’s kind of new to small-town Kansas so they’re learning right along with me. I haven’t done any occupational therapy; I’ve just tried to go back to the way life was before the accident and just adapted. As my healing has progressed, I’ve started using my arm more and more. It took about 4-6 weeks to fully go back to using it once the stitches came out.
I’ve just tried to go back to the way life was before the accident and just adapted. As my healing has progressed, I’ve started using my arm more and more
Q: Did you try any prosthetics during this time?
A: We had been going through insurance and I had a body powered prosthesis because that’s all they would cover. We tried a different prosthetics company, but the insurance denied it, and denied our appeal. The body powered – I hate the thing – I’ve used it maybe four hours total. I just feel very lethargic using it, with the way the straps are situated.
Q: When did Open Bionics come into the journey for you? How did you learn about us and what made you decide the Hero Arm is what you wanted?
A: It was my wife who found Open Bionics, we were getting quoted ridiculous numbers for myoelectric arms, so we began searching for grants that different farm companies put on to help farmers who’ve lost hands, etc. My wife found Open Bionics through that search. We got all the info we requested and had a call with Brittany and Elise, and from there I went to Denver. We realized that Open Bionics was trying to help people like us in similar situations and not trying to necessarily turn a profit off me. They’re charging something that’s reasonable if you cannot get insurance to say yes.
Q: And how did your clinic experience go?
A: It’s been great. It was the most personable clinic experience that we’ve had, the most down to Earth people. We don’t feel like we are being rushed in and out. Using the Hero Arm was very cool – my daughter wants to 3D print a hand now..
Q: What are your hopes and expectations once you get your Hero Arm?
A: It’s going to be great to have something cool and something to just provide basic functionality, being able to work two pieces of silverware at a time – just simple things. My expectations are higher than they were before getting to travel to Denver, so I’m more hopeful now.
It was the most personable clinic experience that we’ve had, the most down to Earth people. We don’t feel like we are being rushed in and out. Using the Hero Arm was very cool
We will be sure to check back in with Conor once his Hero Arm is delivered, so be sure to continue to watch this space for more on Conor’s journey. If you or someone you know is interested in trialing the Hero Arm for free, be sure to follow the link below to register interest.
The Hero Arm uses myoelectric sensors which detect underlying muscular contractions generated from specific muscle groups in the arm. These are then amplified and converted into intuitive and proportional bionic hand movements. Each Hero Arm is custom-built for optimal comfort, and fits like a glove.