HEALTH: First NHS patient in the UK receives new ‘Michelangelo’ hand

Marguerite Henderson became the first NHS patient to receive a ‘Michelangelo’ hand.

By Lucy Ashton

A woman who lost her limbs after she contracted sepsis from a paper cut is looking forward to a new challenge in 2021 – getting to use her new bionic hand.

Last month, Marguerite Henderson became the first NHS patient in the UK to receive a life-changing ‘Michelangelo’ hand, which has already changed her life and in time will vastly increase the number of things she can do for herself.

For the last year, Marguerite has been under the care of specialist prosthetic staff at the WestMARC centre on the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Campus in Glasgow.

Marguerite (57) said: “I’ve only had it a few weeks, but already it’s helping me to be more independent. It will mean very simple things like cutting my own food, eating different things, feeling comfortable about eating out – I can’t wait to eat a burger, which of course you need two hands for!”

Marguerite has made remarkable progress since her near fatal illness in February 2018. After sepsis ripped through her body in a matter of days she had to have both legs and her left arm amputated. The right hand was partially saved and she has amazed everyone with how much she has been able to continue to use it.

She said: “I am so glad the surgeon was able to save part of my hand. I can use it to type, sew, phone people and do my own hair, use my wheelchair and lots more. It’s not the life I would have chosen but I owe my life to the NHS.

“My new left hand will make me so much more independent. It just opens up so many things for me now. I am very lucky.”

Marguerite’s new high-tech hand works by her firing different muscles in her forearm to trigger the hand to do different movements.

Senior prosthetist Vincent MacEachen explained: “Marguerite was a natural – it normally takes many weeks to get used to a new hand, but you can normally tell within five minutes if someone is a good prospect.

“The Michelangelo hand is quite intuitive. There are two sensors in the socket on Marguerite’s arm – basically one to open and one to close.

“How strongly Marguerite flexes her muscles determines the speed and the movement the hand makes. With practise she can produce several movements – open, close, rotate the wrist left and right and position the thumb for different grasps.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with Marguerite who has been motivated to try new treatments and put in the practice required. I wish her all the best for the future.”

The hand was fitted over zoom.

Alan Gordon and Alistair Ward, from the hand’s manufacturer Ottobock, watched Marguerite’s responses remotely, then relayed instructions about the adjustments to make. They repeated this process until the hand was working perfectly.

Marguerite had nothing but praise for the team which has given her so much of her independence back.

She said: “Everyone at WestMARC has been amazing. For the smile at the front door to the time that staff spend making sure you are happy, each and every one of them is special.

“They listen to me and what matters to me. I am treated like a person with feeling and hopes; 100% of the time it’s for my benefit. This is not a job for them; it’s a vocation and I can’t thank them enough for everyone they have done for me.

“I feel so privileged to be given this amazing hand and every day it’s helping me do more and more.”

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