A military veteran who lost part of his arm in Afghanistan has become the first person to receive a 3D-printed “hero arm” on the NHS.
Darren “Daz” Fuller lost the lower part of his right arm in Afghanistan in 2008 during an incident with mortar ammunition.
The 43-year-old, who lives in Colchester with his wife and four-year-old daughter Sky, enlisted in the Parachute Regiment in 1994 and served for 20 years.
He now works for Blesma, the limbless veterans’ charity, as an outreach officer.
The new multi-grip arm was funded through the NHS Veterans’ Prosthetics Panel.
Mr Fuller said: “To be the first veteran to get [a hero arm] is fantastic, but it leads on to me being hopefully the first of many. The first few weeks have been a voyage of discovery.
“There are so many things I’m doing two-handed compared to before and so many things I’m still discovering.
“Doing things together as a family that may not have been possible or a lot harder before has been great. I can also now remember the last time I ate with a knife and fork as it was yesterday.”
The arm is one of several hero arms manufactured by Bristol-based company Open Bionics.
It works by picking up signals from muscles in the residual limb. When Mr Fuller puts on the arm and flexes his muscles just below the elbow, special sensors detect the naturally generated electric signals and turn these into hand movement.
The Hero Arm is currently only available to people through private clinics in the UK, US and Europe.
The company is working with the NHS on a clinical trial which could see the health organisation offering the limbs more widely.
In January, an 11-year-old quadruple amputee became the first person to receive an R2-D2 bionic arm.
Kye Vincent, from Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, crowdfunded for the Star Wars-themed “hero arm” after losing four limbs to meningitis when he was just eight years old.
Open Bionics co-founder Samantha Payne said: “The fact that Daz is the first person to receive funding through an NHS funding pathway gives hope to the dozens of people with upper limb differences in the UK who are currently actively crowdfunding for their hero arms, and hundreds more who are waiting patiently.
“We very much hope the NHS sees how helpful these devices are and begin offering them to more amputees.
“The hero arm is made in the UK and is currently covered by French and Irish national healthcare systems, but not England’s. We have a wait-list of amputees who cannot afford private healthcare waiting for the device to be available via the NHS and we’re excited to supply them with a hero arm in the future.”