With a weakened immune system due to bouts with cancer, Eric’s health took a turn for the worse when he developed strep pneumonia and sepsis that developed into disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), a life-threatening blood-clotting disorder that cut off the blood supply to his extremities. As he entered a month-long, medical-induced coma, so bleak was his prognosis that he was likely to awaken to find both arms amputated below the elbow and both legs below the knee.
When he awoke, he had lost most of the function in his left hand. His fingers and thumb had been saved, though they were severely contracted into a fist, a state that would take surgery to improve. His right hand, however, fared worse from the DIC; his doctors were unable to save his fingers and thumb and they were amputated. In addition, he lost his toes and other parts of his feet.
As traumatic as this result was, when Eric awoke, he felt tremendously lucky to be alive. He credits the many doctors, therapists and nurses who worked with him at Yale New Haven Hospital. Still, it was a long road ahead of him to rehabilitate and adapt to his new circumstances.
For a long while, he didn’t have a prosthetic on his right hand. That didn’t stop Eric. He was determined to find new ways to live his life, play with his kids, and take care of his responsibilities. He quickly learned to write with his left hand, more legibly, says his wife, than he ever did with his right. While he would never play the piano again, he accepted the challenges before him and faced them with as positive an attitude as he could.
While at a rehabilitation hospital in December 2007, where he was learning to walk again and receiving rehabilitation on his surgically opened left hand, he looked forward to the evaluation day at the end of the month-long process when the evaluation team determines the best course of action based on a patient’s individual needs.
Having seen Touch Bionics in the media, he was excited to find out what partial-hand prosthetics existed and might be suitable for him. When the evaluation team told him little more than that he was a candidate for a prosthetic, he was thoroughly disappointed but came to an important realization.
- Patient: Eric, 43
- Location: Mamaroneck, NY, a suburb of New York City
- Occupation: Stay at home dad and freelance communications professional
- Clinic: Care provided by Handspring, Middletown, NY
- Product: i-limb digits
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"Amputees need to take it upon themselves to find their own best solution; nobody’s going to do it for you," said Jones. "I saw the i-limb hand and knew that it offered a level of functionality that I was looking for and wondered if similar technology existed for people like me with missing fingers. It was then up to me to find it and get it."
He was first fitted with an off-the-shelf device, what he refers to as his "gadget hand," a device that resembled a wrist support and socket with various attachments – a knife, trowel, hamburger flipper and so on. While this offered him some additional functionality, he wanted to seek out the most advanced product on the market. He thought that Touch Bionics would be a good place to start in finding the best possible partial-hand prosthesis.
Eric sought out a prosthetist who worked with Touch Bionics products and found Handspring of Middletown, NY. He was fitted with the first-generation i-limb digits in December 2008. His second-generation i-limb digits were delivered in Summer of 2009; this newer prosthesis has a movable thumb. He has opted for the i-limb Skin, a clear silicone, robotic-looking covering on the hand rather than a high-definition human cosmesis partially because a prosthetic for him is all about function.
"I didn’t want to wait even one more day before I could start using it," said Eric. "i-limb digits offers me functionality that I can’t get anywhere else– it offers me the ability to grasp. I walk with a crutch to steady myself, which I hold in my left hand. Without i-limb digits, I can’t carry anything as my left hand can’t grasp it and nor can I cradle it in my right arm.
"With i-limb digits, I gain more independence. I can pick something up and walk out to the car with it, rather than have to put it in a bag. Most importantly, I’m able to take care of my kids – play games with my them, take them to school, make dinner. i-limb digits helps with all that."