Bionic hand is ‘life-changer’ for Hull amputee
On 16 June 1992, when he was just 13, Mike Swainger was struck by a train when playing with friends on some waste ground. Lying fully conscious by the trackside for 45 minutes, he was fully aware that the arm and leg that rested on the ballast a few feet away, were his own.
Now, he is the UK’s first man to receive the remarkable bebionic3 through the NHS, following a search that has lasted almost 20 years.
“I remember waking up in intensive care and realising that my life had changed for good. I was in quite a dark place for some time and really struggled with the various options that were around.
“I tried a number of different arms over a 19-year period and all were quite frustrating. The grip was generally weak and they never felt like a part of me. The only option was to re-learn all the everyday tasks with my left hand.
“I hoped the technology would come and became increasingly aware of the bebionic hand. It was a long shot but I contacted the manufacturers, RSLSteeper, and effectively offered to be a UK test case. I knew what an incredible impact this would have and was desperate for a break.”
That break came in 2012, when Mike was selected as the first person in the UK to receive RSLSteeper’s bebionic3 hand through the NHS. Now, using the most advanced bebionic3 with its ‘‘Terminator-style” appearance, he can complete all sorts of tasks:
“Having a bebionic hand is a complete life-changer. I can do all the things I could do with a real hand from sports to everyday tasks like tying shoe laces, opening a pack of crisps, or shaking hands.
“The best thing was when my youngest child, Jodie, held the bionic hand in the street without batting an eyelid. I am extremely grateful to the NHS and RSLSteeper.”
Now living with his wife, Claire, and three children, Billy, Ellie, and Jodie, Mike wants to play his part in helping those going through similar circumstances. Working with Hull FC to establish a wheelchair rugby league team, and promoting paralympic sport in schools, he hopes that his experience will be an inspiration to others:
“Being an amputee can be so daunting and accepting the disability is often the toughest thing. I’ve experienced many highs and lows and want to make that experience available to as many people as possible.”