Two Ukrainian soldiers who had their legs amputated after being wounded by landmines are being fitted with state-of-the-art bionic weapons made in the UK.
They are the first veterans to be fitted with the new Hero Arm, a 3D printed prosthetic made by Bristol-based technology company Open Bionics.
Andrii Gidzun and Vitalii Ivashchuk tried out the arm this week in Munich. It has movable fingers and thumb that allow them to pinch and grasp objects. It is controlled by sensors activated by the forearm muscles.
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Custom prosthetics for the two men will now be made on a 3D printer and fitted next month.
Vitalii, 24, described testing the Hero Arm as a “very cool feeling”, adding: “I’m so glad I had the opportunity to get such a functional prosthetic. I didn’t even wish for it.
“When the electrodes were applied and I had the opportunity to test the prosthetic, I just enjoyed it. I was happy, to put it mildly.”
The men’s prosthetics were funded by Mastercard, which supports charity foundation Superhumans raising £33 million to build a specialist hospital in the Ukrainian city of Lviv.
The Superhuman Center will partner with Open Bionics to provide prosthetics, rehabilitation and counseling to civilians and soldiers who have lost limbs in war.
Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska sits on the center’s board of directors.
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The Ukrainian government estimates that at least 62,000 square miles of its territory are riddled with landmines and other unexploded ordnance.
Joel Gibbard, head of the Open Bionics team that fitted the prosthetics, told Sky News that civilian casualties included children, who were often unaware of the risks.
He said: “We’ve heard of cases where they keep picking them up and then obviously lose limbs. So when we designed the Hero Arm we decided to try and make it suitable for children as young as 8 years old.
“It’s not yet at the level of technology that can replace the human hand. We’re designing it for activities of daily living.
“Our goal was for it to be able to hold objects of different sizes, to pick things up, to hold a cup of coffee, to tie your shoes, to brush your teeth—these are all things we focus on in our design.”
Olga Rudneva, CEO of Superhumans, said: “The Superhumans philosophy is that our patients receive the best medical care at home, in their own language, close to their families.
“Once the Superhuman Center opens, it will receive up to 3,000 patients per year. Thanks to partners and donors, all services will be provided free of charge to patients.”