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Byline: RACHAEL MISSTEAR

IT'S amazing what medicine and science can now achieve, and it offers hope to the world that one day we will be able to fix so many things that can currently disable us.

But standing between the advances and the results is a shortage of cash, which inevitably dictates the boundaries of what we can achieve and in what time frame.

But there is great hope, and a programme about a Welsh schoolboy who has become the first child in Wales to receive a new state-of-the-art bionic hand reveals just that.

Being shown a preview of the BBC documentary, which airs tonight, I was fascinated to see how ten-year-old Alan coped after having both hands amputated at the age of three after complications arising from an infection.

But, thanks to advances in technology and the efforts of an incredibly devoted and determined mother, Alan, of Loughor, Swansea, has a new i-limb quantum hand.

It didn't come easily. His mother Hannah Jones, 32, had to raise PS30,000 to pay for the prothesis.

Of course, every moment of her eight months of fundraising has led to a huge difference to his life, giving her son more confidence.

The i-limb quantum, made by Touch T Bionics, available in Scotland, is described as a "multi-articulating" hand. It is the first prosthesis to allow wearers to change grips with a simple gesture, according to its manufacturer.

"He's now able to write one-handed, he's able to eat with a knife and fork, he's able to ride a bike, which is something he's always wanted to do," Ms Jones said.

It's the kind of technology that, one day, will hopefully be available more readily and affordable to many amputees.

It's also a dream of pioneering veterinary surgeon Professor Noel Fitzpatrick.

The Surrey-based neuro-orthopaedic surgeon became famous when he gave a two-year-old cat a pair of new artificial feet in a single surgical procedure - something which had never been done before by any team anywhere in the world. But the procedure reportedly cost in the region of PS50,000.

His life goal, he says, is something called 'One Medicine', helping share knowledge of his cutting-edge prosthetic work with human doctors. Prof Fitzpatrick said human and veterinary doctors don't talk enough, and says his technology for limb amputation has leapfrogged theirs.

It is exciting to think that we have pioneers who can help both humans and animals overcome the trauma of losing a limb, and that we might share any knowledge and advancements in technology and practice that can achieve that.

It gives great hope for the future, especially for children like Alan, who is among the first to try the new technology.

Alan's story, The Boy with No Hands, can be seen BBC One Wales, tonight, at 8.30pm rachael.misstear@walesonline.co.uk

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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 14, 2016
Words:470
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