Thanks to a tiny exoskeleton that was made possible by 3D printing, a toddler with a rare congenital disorder has been given the gift of movement.
Two-year-old Emma was born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a rare disorder that can adversely affect muscle strength and limit one's ability to move.
"When she was born, her legs were up by her ears and her shoulders were internally rotated," her mom, Megan Lavelle, said in this heartbreaking YouTube video.
As Emma developed, she slowly gained control of her legs and other body parts, but it soon became clear that the little girl would not be able to lift or move her arms on her own.
This meant that Emma couldn't draw rainbows with her hands or build kingdoms out of Legos; she couldn't feed herself or even rub her little eyes.
But all that changed when her mother attended a family conference and learned about the Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton (WREX).
According to design magazine Core77, the WREX is an "assistive device made of hinged metal bars and resistance bands that enables people with underdeveloped arms to play and feed themselves." It was created by Tariq Rahman and Whitney Sample of the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.
Emma was invited to try an early prototype of the WREX.
"The WREX was attached to a stand and she was able to put her arms into the WREX and for the first time be able to lift her hands up towards her mouth," Rahman said in the video.
However, though effective, the original WREX was too large and heavy for a child of Emma's tiny stature, so Rahman and Sample got to work creating a smaller version the little girl could easily carry around.
Lavelle said the mini-exoskeleton has changed her daughter's life.
Now the toddler, who calls her prosthetic her "magic arms," can play and eat independently.
Thanks to its customizability and ease of manufacturing, 3D printing is an exciting development for pediatric prosthetics, according to Core77.
It's safe to say Emma would agree.
For more information on the WREX, click here.
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