Q&A with below-elbow amputee Michelle

9th August 2021

Michelle from Devers Texas became a below-elbow amputee when her arm got caught in a meat grinder at work when she was 20. Rediscovering the world around her, Michelle has had three different prosthetic arms since the accident. She found them expensive, cumbersome, and not terribly useful. Plus, after gaining or losing weight, she had to replace them with different sizes. In 2019, she received her Hero Arm, which changed her life. This is Michelle’s story.

What’s been your experience with the Hero Arm?

It’s been awesome. Being able to put on makeup for the first time in 35 years, hold an egg without breaking it, and open a can of soda or even a bottle of water without it squirting everywhere, to me, it’s amazing.

What was your expectation of the Hero Arm?

I anticipated it to be better than the prosthetic solutions I had. I’d been researching it for three years and following it on Facebook. When they contacted me, I just hoped it would be better than what I had used.

Plus, Texas gets hot, and the Hero Arm isn’t as heavy. It doesn’t cause you to sweat as much.

It’s hard to explain. I was expecting something like previous brands that are much heavier and less functional. Although it exceeded my expectations, it was a bit of an adjustment. With other arms, you twist things. With this, you move your muscle back and forth; you can also grasp little things. 

Plus, Texas gets hot, and the Hero Arm isn’t as heavy. It doesn’t cause you to sweat as much.

How has your experience been getting used to the Hero Arm?

I could do everyday tasks like opening a refrigerator and pouring laundry soap before, but now they’re more exciting. Of course, it takes time to get used to using it and using it every day. 

How has the Hero Arm been useful during quarantine?

I’ve used it more since I’ve been in quarantine. I put the pencil in the Hero Arm and typed an email with it. I’ve been able to cook without hurting myself. You can’t flip things, but I love stirring and pouring at the same time while using it. That’s a big help. Before, I would dump it in and hurry up to stir. I’m able to cut chicken and vegetables without cutting myself. It’s the little things that make a big difference in life when you’re a below-elbow amputee.

How does your Hero Arm make you feel?

I’m a lot more self-confident than before; a lot more! Before, I would position myself in pictures to hide my missing hand. Now, it takes a bit longer when shopping or going to restaurants because people think it’s so cool they stop me to ask about it.

Can you describe what it was like putting your makeup on for the first time?

I think I’m going to tear up. It was something I hadn’t done in a very long time. I was twenty when I lost my hand. As I got older, it was the first thing I wanted to see if I could do.

The first time, I wasn’t holding the brush right. Once I watched the Hero Arm tutorials, it got easier. To do that and for it to come out right for the first time in 35 years was amazing. I’m actually able to blow dry my hair while using it too.

Find out if you qualify for free Hero Arm funding

How did you personalize your Hero Arm?

I put a little tattoo on the back of the hand and something on the back of the forearm. On the inside of the forearm, I put “Love” as a reminder to love myself and love who I am.

The other covers I have are all white and red, white, and blue. I’ll decorate those in my downtime, and I think I’ll order a couple more. You can decorate them like accessories and coordinate with what you wear.

Why was it important for you to get the Hero Arm?

I can do more, and my lifestyle has changed a bit. Mowing the lawn is easier and even after a long-wear, it doesn’t leave any marks or bruises like my previous prosthetics. Being able to play Putt-putt, I could never do that before. It has changed what I do and the way I do it. I’m more self-confident, and I like that.

If you are a below-elbow amputee and would like to try out the Hero Arm or speak to us about grants available to help cover costs of getting a Hero Arm, register your interest here.