LAKEGEORGE-A Freshman at Lake George High School has just accomplished something few people of any age around the world have - she's completed basic training on using her bionic hand.
Paige Edwards, 14, of Lake George recently finished a series of therapy sessions at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in Schenectady. The sessions were to help her master the use of her new artificial fingers - and she can now file and paint her fingernails, tie her shoes and fix her hair with relative ease.
Paige was the first person in the Hudson Valley to have bionic fingers fitted.
An advanced prosthetic called ProDigits from Touch Bionics, considered to incorporate revolutionary technology, suddenly opened up possibilities Paige never thought possible, she said in a recent interview.
"It's met all of my expectations so far," Paige said. "I wear it everyday in school and whenever I go out of the house."
Born missing the fingers on her right hand, Paige had adapted well before introduction to the bionic hand - quite enough to have a fulfilling life. But there were things she longed to do that require two hands, like blow drying her hair, cutting her own meat and holding an ice cream cone, she said.
And now that Paige has completed months of physical therapy at Sunnyview, she can enjoy all those tasks - and much more, she said.
"Now it's kind of second nature," she said.
It wasn't always this easy, Paige said, noting that soon after her introduction to the ProDigits, her excitement about the bionic hand made learning fun, but then things got a little harder. "At first it was more like I was learning things and it was easy because I was excited; but after a while it got frustrating," she said. "The excitement just wore away a little bit."
She didn't give up, though. Every two weeks from December through March, Paige worked with Sunnyview occupational therapist Rebecca Carson on perfecting everyday tasks.
"We worked on a lot of functional activities that someone her age would want to do.," Carson said. "She plays percussion in the band so we worked on her holding her mallets," Carson said.
They also practiced buttoning, zippering and anything that required two hands, Paige said.
"We worked on things like carrying a lunch tray and tying shoe laces and eating with forks and knives," she said. "One day, we baked brownies so I can use stuff better in the kitchen."
Carson has worked with prosthetics before, but never with this particular device. She said Paige helped her learn, too.
"Because she was so young, she knew how the device worked and was able to help me through that process of understanding it," Carson said. "It was just so exciting for her that we practiced with a lot of repetition in order to get her muscles to fire and contract to get the device to do what she wanted it to do."
Paige exhibited determination and enthusiasm which prompted her to succeed so quickly, Carson added.
"Luckily she was so young and having this device was so exciting that she looked at it as a good challenge," Carson said. "She wouldn't stop just because it was hard - She would just keep going."
Paige can accomplish more things now, but she also knows how to handle life without the bionic hand - Early on in life, Paige had learned to navigate a two-hand world just fine, she said.
"Mostly at the house I take it off because I adapted to doing things without it," Paige said. "At home, it's easier to go the way I learned before."
Paige added there are still tasks she wants to improve, like brushing her teeth or combing her hair, but in time, such skills will develop, she predicted.
The next step is obtaining the material LivingSkin to cover the prosthetic and make it look realistic. The first version of LivingSkin she was fitted for was a little too light, so a second shade is currently being created, she said.