- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

INDEPENDENCE, Kansas (AP) - When 3-year-old Preston Bundy was born without full formation of his fingers on his left hand, his parents, Jamie and Chris, thought long and hard before deciding that surgery wasn’t the best option for their son.

In early February, however, Preston received a prosthesis that could give him the left hand grip he was born without.

The prosthesis isn’t like what some might picture.

Instead of a flesh tone, the hand was green and orange, and it was made using a 3-D printer in a new fabrication laboratory, the Fab Lab, at Independence Community College in Independence, Kansas.

ICC Fab Lab director Jim Correll and Fab Lab members, volunteers and ICC students were working on not only giving Preston a left hand, but also making one for 3-year-old Brinley Papish of Olathe. Both children were born with what their families call a limb difference.

The congenital condition is called symbrachydactyly.

“For some reason when he was in utero the bones just did not grow,” Jamie Bundy said.

Preston has a hand, a partial thumb and small fingers with nails, but no bones, his mother said.

Brinley’s limb difference affected her left hand, which looks much like Preston’s, but with smaller middle fingers, a thumb and a pinkie, her father Adam said.

The Fab Lab opened in October according to The Manhattan Mercury (https://bit.ly/1xQpwFl ).

It was intended to be a space for engineering students and the public to have access to advanced manufacturing and digital fabrication tools.

It was Correll’s friend Wes Koeske, a retired pharmacy technician from Toronto, Kansas, who came up with the idea to use the Fab Lab to print a prosthetic hand.

Koeske had read an article about a hand that had already been created using 3-D printing and he knew someone locally who could use it: his daughter’s friend, Kara Marr, 13.

“She just said she’d given up,” Koeske said about Kara’s hope for a prosthesis. There were community fundraisers to get a 3-D printer to make Kara a hand, but it was thousands of dollars. An insurance company also declined to cover a $42,000 medical prosthesis because Kara would outgrow it.

Koeske offered to work on the prosthetic he had heard about - a design by Jorge Zuniga, an exercise science professor at Creighton University in Omaha - using the Fab Lab’s 3-D printers. The printed prosthesis was made using only $50 of materials and would be free to Kara.

With the “Cyborg Beast” hand that was made for Kara in September, she can grab things by pulling her wrist downward so that a set of strings on the hand pull the prosthetic hand’s fingers inward.

“I can hold coffee cups,” Kara said. “I think the biggest thing is kinda getting used to it because I’ve done things without something like this for practically my whole life until a few months ago.”

It was Kara’s story that brought the Bundy family to Independence. Chris Bundy had picked up a Manhattan Mercury and saw an article by contributing writer Ron Wilson about Kara’s hand.

The story said the Fab Lab was looking to make hands for other people and to bring them together for weekend. The Bundys contacted the Papish family, whom they knew through mutual friends.

The two families went to Independence for the celebratory- in-tone “Hand-Up” weekend where Preston and Brinley would get their hands for free. The families also will have access to the Fab Lab for life so they can make new hands or adjust them as the children grew.

The hands take hours to make as their parts are “printed” by a machine that pours layers of plastic according to a computer generated design.

“I’m hoping that he’ll be welcoming to it and he’ll want to use it,” Jamie Bundy said.

She said not having fingers on his left hand had never slowed Preston down, however.

“He uses (his hand) very well, but he doesn’t know any different because he was born with it,” she said. “He’s definitely a 3-yearold.”

Preston, she said, can even use playground monkey bars.

Surgery would have come with too many risks, Bundy said.

“It’s a long process,” she said. “It’s years and years of multiple surgeries over and over.”

If Preston’s parents had chosen to let their son have surgery, Bundy said it would have involved cutting and breaking bones as he grew, possibly transferring them from his feet, a high risk of infection, great expense, lots of travel and a fingers that might even be fully functional or look natural.

“He’ll tell you it’s the way God made him,” Bundy said.

Preston worked with his dad at a table in the Fab Lab on Saturday, putting his hand together and screwing on the plastic fingers.

“We’re gonna make my hand,” he said, holding out his left “fin,” as he and his family call it.

Preston focused on the mechanics and came up with a few prospective new things he would be able to do with his new hand.

Farming and carrying his toys were listed as possibilities.

He said the hand would also turn him into a superhero.

“Batman,” Preston said. The hand would turn him into Batman.

Alternatively, he said, he could also now be the “Incredible Hulk.”

___

Information from: The Manhattan (Kan.) Mercury, https://www.themercury.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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