Born without fingers on either hand, Stevenson Joseph had little
hope of treatment in a country where programs for the disabled are
rare apart from a handful of charities.
Now the 3-D prosthesis fitted to his left hand has given him a whole
new range of dexterity, including being able to play catch with his
friends for the first time and maybe even enabling him to write one
day, according to staff at the home for disabled orphans where he
In 2010, Stevenson was brought to Bernard Mevs hospital in the
capital, Port-au-Prince, where an orthopedic team was working to fit
prosthetic limbs after a devastating earthquake caused injuries that
"We couldnít do anything for him here," recalled Thomas Iwalla, a
Kenyan orthopedic technician at hospital.
"Some congenital conditions, like Stevensonís, are pretty hard to
tackle. Not even surgery could repair his missing fingers," he said.
On a mission trip to Haiti for Florida-based Food for the Poor last
year, John Marshall and his wife Lisa, met Stevenson at the Little
Children of Jesus orphanage where he has lived since he was
abandoned when he was 3 years old.
Back in California, Marshall read an article about Richard van As, a
South African man who developed a plastic prosthetic "Robohand"
using a 3-D printer after losing his fingers in an woodwork accident
Marshall and van As worked for months to design a 3-D print
prosthesis for the Haitian boy.
"Stevenson is handicapped in a small way, in a way thatís not as bad
as some of the other children, yet his hands are holding him back.
He can do so much more. He has the potential," said Marshall.
After three attempts, the skeleton-looking prosthesis was ready and
shipped to Haiti where Bernard Mevs hospital medical team fit
Stevenson with it last month.
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"A printed prosthesis is more anatomical and it allows more motion
than the one that is usually custom-made," said Iwalla, an
orthopedic technician at the hospital. Also, once the model is
designed, printing the prosthesis cost only around $300.
"Some patients care more about cosmetics. But for Stevenson function
is the most important criteria. That's what is in his mind. His
robot-hand makes him happy, makes us happy," said Iwalla.
Instead of shooting ink to print words or images in a page, 3-D
printers use plastic or metal to build three-dimensional objects
ranging from jewelry to guns.
Stevenson now spends his days getting used to his new hand.
"It is a great hand," he smiled, ticking off his list of
accomplishments. "Now I can take a balloon with it. I can score at
basketball. I can hold a TV remote and push my friends on their
wheelchairs. I can hold a water bottle, a bag. I like it a lot."
The 3-D device, articulated by Stevenson's wrist, makes a slight
creaking plastic sound when moving. "Some say that now he looks like
a robot, but Stevenson doesnít care," said Edouard Williamson, one
of the staff at the orphanage.
(Editing by David Adams and Lisa Shumaker)
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