On March 13, 2009, Cabrina Ball underwent corrective surgery for
carpal tunnel syndrome, a repetitive strain condition affecting the
hand and wrist. After the surgery, Cabrina subsequently contracted
necrotizing fasciitis, an infection more commonly known as
flesh-eating disease, with tragic consequences.
A two and a half week spell in hospital ensued, as doctors
battled to save her hand, ultimately resulting in the amputation of
all four fingers from her left hand. Her thumb was saved, but with
reduced overall function.
"Right away, I started to think about how I was going to be able
to return to normal life - as a secretary, I use both hands a lot,"
recalls Cabrina. "And of course there were the daily life
challenges outside of work - not being able to put clothes on by
myself, not being able to pick up my new grandchild, cooking,
baking and so on."
Her family rallied round her during her time in hospital and
while recuperating at home afterwards, her husband taking three
weeks off work and her mother helping out at home.
"I'm very independent and don't believe in feeling sorry for
yourself, but I needed the help," says Cabrina.
While still healing, she scoured the internet for prosthetic
solutions that might provide her with a way back to some level of
"It wasn't a happy experience - I couldn't find anything out
there that looked like it would do the trick," she says.
Cabrina was then informed about a new body-powered prosthetic
finger that might be able to help her. The M-finger solution was a
mechanical device that claimed to provide a return to function for
people with missing fingers.
"I told them I didn't care about aesthetics - I just wanted to
get my independence back," says Cabrina. "Unfortunately, the
M-Fingers didn't really work out for me."
The M-Fingers required Cabrina to flex her wrist in order to
cause them to close around an object, and this mechanical motion
was challenging for her.
"It felt unnatural to me to have to flex my wrist towards myself
to close around an object, and I very quickly got tired using the
M-fingers," she says. "In addition, the fingers were slippery and I
couldn't apply enough force to hold objects securely - even opening
a door was impossible, due to the unnatural angle at which I had to
grasp the handle."
After being fitted with the M-Fingers, Cabrina was told to work
with her occupational therapist to improve her function with the
device. However, her therapist had never seen anything like it
before and was unclear as to how to help Cabrina work with the
"I was better off with my stump than with M-Fingers," she
Prior to receiving her M-Fingers prosthesis, Cabrina had seen a
segment on Good Morning America that featured ProDigits, the
electrically powered prosthetic finger solution from Touch
"I had four phone calls from my family before 8am that morning,"
she recalls. "I felt so excited because finally I felt like there
might be something out there that could provide me with the
functional capabilities I was looking for."
After having continued problems with her M-Fingers device,
Cabrina contacted Touch Bionics directly and was directed to one of
the company's Touch Life Centers, a network of clinics that
specialize in fitting the unique technology. Clinicians from the
Touch Life Center contacted her and conducted a remote assessment
to determine her appropriateness for a ProDigits solution. She
visited one of the clinics in March 2010 for her first fitting.
"What wonderful service I experienced at the Touch Life Center,"
says Cabrina. "I worked extensively with their therapists and
prosthetists to help me get the most out of my prosthesis,
including mirror therapy to help me understand the myoelectric
control of the fingers."
Cabrina had some challenges learning how to use the ProDigits at
first, but worked these out with the team and was soon learning how
to perform many tasks that she had never been able to perform since
her amputation, like playing cards and, most importantly of all,
putting a child in a car seat - something she needed to be able to
do for her new grandchild.
Since leaving Touch Bionics with her final device, Cabrina has
returned to independence both at work and at home.
"In the office, I can pick up the phone using the ProDigits and
it's good to be able to carry things in my left hand again," she
"With my ProDigits device, the grip strength is much better than
with M-Fingers, and because it's electrically powered, I don't have
to keep holding a signal to maintain my grasp on an object.
Using M-Fingers, it felt unnatural to me to have to flex my wrist
to grip an object, and I found the grip strength overall to be