VIDEO: Hull man Mike Swainger becomes first in UK to have bionic hand fitted on NHS
A HULL man has become the first in the UK to be fitted with a bionic hand on the NHS.
Mike Swainger was just 13 when he lost his right arm and leg after being hit by a train as he played with friends near a railway track in east Hull in 1992.
After being picked as the first person to receive the UK's most advanced medical technology, Mike said the best thing is being able to walk down the street hand-in-hand with his youngest daughter Jodie, 6.
Mike, 33, said the battery-powered myo-electric bebionic3 hand has given him a new lease of life.
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He said: "It has changed my life immeasurably.
"Having a bionic hand that actually works like a real hand is such a confidence booster.
"It encourages you to take on different tasks and is a great ice-breaker.
"I've heard little kids in the street saying 'Look, it's a robot'.
Mike, of east Hull, said there are two electrodes in a socket, with one connected to his bicep and the other linked to his tricep.
Electronic impulses from the muscles and nerve endings create a current, which triggers the "Terminator-style" hand.
If Mike tenses his bicep, the hand closes and if he tenses his tricep, it opens.
Mike said he became aware of the hand when he carried out research, as he was frustrated by the lack of technology available for artificial arms.
He approached the manufacturers, RSLSteeper, and offered to be a test case.
Mike said he was told the technology was in the very early stages and was more often used abroad or in the private sector, rather than the NHS, but he would be kept in mind.
Six months ago, after speaking to staff at the Hull Artificial Limb Centre and undergoing checks to test the signals in his arm, Mike was told he was to be the first person to receive the hand in the UK.
Mike said: "I knew what an incredible impact this would have and was desperate for a break.
"Having a bebionic hand is a complete life-changer.
"I can go fishing, try new sports such as archery and shooting, and perform everyday tasks people consider mundane, such as tying shoe laces, opening a pack of crisps, or shaking hands.
"I used to struggle with opening an envelope and taking a letter out, or closing the car door once I'd got in."
Mike has been presented with new opportunities since he was given his new hand.
He said Hull FC asked him to help set up a wheelchair rugby league team, as well as play the sport.
Mike is now completing coaching courses and he plans to promote Paralympic sport in schools.
Mike said the team will be for everyone, not just disabled players, and wheelchairs will be provided.
He now wants to use his experiences to help others.
"Being an amputee can be so daunting and accepting the disability is often the toughest thing," he said.
"I've experienced many highs and lows and want to make that experience available to as many people as possible."
Paul Steeper, managing director of the products division at Leeds-based RSLSteeper, which also has a base in Hull city centre, said bebionic3 is already "revolutionising" the lives of amputees from across the world and Mike is playing his part in that.
He said: "Thanks to people like Mike, we are able to make constant improvements to a design that is already the world's most advanced myo-electric hand, making it stronger, more precise and easier to programme.
"The new hand is helping Mike to tackle real-life, everyday situations, and provides the perfect balance between advanced technology, functionality and aesthetics.
"Mike has taken to his new prosthesis incredibly well and we look forward to continuing our relationship with him."
Julia Mizon, interim director of commissioning and partnerships for the NHS Hull Clinical Commissioning Group, which funded the hand, said: "Helping people to remain as fit as possible to enjoy the best quality of life is a main priority for the NHS.
"I am delighted to learn the artificial hand has made such a positive and profound difference to this young man."