The birth of your first child should be a wonderful experience, but for Ben Ryan and Katie Smith, the birth of their son, Sol, was followed by a huge upset. Due to a complicated labor, blood clots formed in Sol's left arm. Doctors had no choice but to amputate Sol's arm just below the elbow only 10 days after he was born.
Ben wanted Sol to be fitted for a prosthetic arm immediately, but no proper prosthetic arm would be available until Sol was three or four years old. With his background in psychology, Ben felt that it was important for his son to have an arm as soon as possible.
"It just made sense to me that in order for his brain to develop so that he would eventually accept more advanced prosthetics with fully functioning hands, that I need to do as much as I could early on," Ben said on ITV News.
So, Ben left his job and focused on developing an arm for his son
He had no experience with design or prosthetics, but with the help of YouTube and a nearby university, he was able to start developing prototypes.
"He was in his shed at the bottom of the garden and I wouldn't see him for days", Katie said. "To be perfectly honest I thought he was going a little bit mad."
At five weeks old Sol was fitted with his first plastic prosthetic arm. The new arm helped Sol get the feeling of the weight of an arm, but there was no movement in the hand. Ben wanted his son to eventually be able to pick things up.
One night, as Ben contemplated his young son's arm, he observed a spider on the ceiling. He knew the spider moved its legs by using fluid pressure (which he had learned previously from a nature TV show), according to his interview with Good Morning Britain.
That inspiration led to the idea of a hydraulic prosthetic arm
Trying to decide which prototype I like the best. The top one was put together a year ago today. I printed the bottom...
This page helps tell the story of Sol, a little boy who sadly lost most of his left arm following an injury at birth. My name is Ben Ryan. I am Sol's father and I founded a company to develop and distribute the devices I invented to children like Sol - all around the world. The new technology is called 'body powered (and power assisted) hydraulics'. Flexible fluid-filled compartments in the socket of a prosthetic arm are used to operate a gripping mechanism. It's very fast and intuitive to use, requires no batteries and will be suitable for infants aged 10 months and above - during a period of explosive brain growth that is not very well understood. The arms we are developing can be 3D printed (or Additive Manufactured to use the proper name) so I called the company AMBIONICS.
Here you can see Sol with his first wearable, 3D printed hydraulic arm. That reaction alone was worth the effort :)
Stacie Simpson is a FamilyShare staff writer. She loves listening to, gathering and sharing stories and advice to help others improve their quality of life. She spends most of her free time with her husband, ballroom dancing, reading and writing.