3D printer gives boy without fingers a new hand

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- On Friday, Keith Harris was the coolest Kindergartner in school. He got to show off his new blue and black 3D hand, or as he calls it robotic hand, and the response he got will make anyone smile.

"Keith has a condition called symbrachydactyly," his mother Kim Harris explains. "Symbrachydactyly is a condition where in utero, the baby's hands form as mittens and then eventually, the fingers separate. If you have symbrachydactyly then the fingers never separate."

Keith's fingers in his right hand didn't form.

"For the first five years of his life, Keith went to the same preschool, had the same kids in his class," says Harris.

She kept her son in a close circle and most of his friends looked at Keith and not his hand. But going to kindergarten was different. Five year-olds ask lots of questions, and that made the five-year-old uncomfortable, so Harris reached out to the E-Nable Organization and Lucky Fin Project.

Becoming a part of these organizations was a game-changer for Harris and her son.

"It really caused us to see that this is to be celebrated. In order for him to be successful and to be confident in every day activities, he's going to have to learn to rock his upper limb difference," she says.

Harris looked into 3D-printed hands through the E-Nable Organization. Soon after, a volunteer in North Carolina created Keith's hand. It took less than a month. The price was only $45, a cost the organization covered. This was far less that a prosthetic, which would cost about $40,000 -- a hefty price tag to spend on a growing boy.

Keith was surprised by how easily his new hand worked.

"I thought it would be hard to control," he said.

With a simple motion, he can make a fist.

"It's easy. When you bend your wrist down, it just goes down like that," he said.

Clear Falls High School Engineering Teacher Trevor Curtis was impressed with the design.

"It looks like they did all the individual joints, and then they have either cables or ropes connected to them, and that's what makes it open and close," says Curtis.

With the prices of 3D-printers dropping -- the one in his classroom costs $2,200 -- Curtis says creating everything from toys to flat ware to more medical devices with printers will be our future.

For Little Keith Harris, a new hand for his "lucky fin" is creating a future of bright opportunities. On Friday, he showed off his 3D-hand to his fellow students.

"I thought they would be like not happy, but instead they were like happy," he says.

"The minute we had something really positive in his lucky fin, it's been amazing to see the transformation in his personality and the confidence level that he now has," says Harris.

His family is raising money for Keith to go to Camp No Limits next summer, so he can learn with other children who have limb differences how to tie his shoes, fish, even archery. His family's fundraiser website is www.gofundme.com/ew40ic.
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