Patrick Kane didn't have an easy start in life - aged just nine
months he contracted meningococcal septicaemia, the virulent form
of meningitis. This horrific illness resulted in a three month
spell in the intensive care unit at St. Mary's Hospital in London,
as doctors battled to save his life. While the doctors were
ultimately successful in saving Patrick's life, they were unable to
do so without tragic consequences: the amputation of his right leg
below the knee, all of the fingers from his left hand, and part of
each finger on his right hand.
Patrick received his first prosthesis, a passive device for his
lower leg, shortly after his first birthday. Provided by the NHS,
the device was very basic and wasn't particularly effective, and a
few years later he upgraded to a more advanced lower limb
prosthesis that met his mobility needs much better.
"I never considered an upper limb prosthesis until much later,"
recalls Patrick. "Of course, I needed a leg to be able to get
around, but it wasn't until I was nine years old that I got my
first prosthetic hand."
The prosthetic hand that Patrick received at that time was a
passive device that fitted over what remained of his left hand.
"I really didn't use my passive hand very much," says Patrick.
"It didn't provide me with any new function, and I had become very
comfortable using my left hand in my day-to-day life anyway."
In early 2010, Patrick first became aware of Touch Bionics while
surfing the web.
Shortly after meeting in London, and fully convinced of the
product's potential to make a significant difference to Patrick's
life, his family decided to start the process to be fitted with an
i-limb. In August, Patrick and his father made the
trip to Livingston in Scotland to spend a week at the Centre of
Excellence for the fitting.
"... I found it really easy to learn," says Patrick.
"Controlling the hand feels very natural, although it does take a
bit longer to learn how to use the automatic grips and gestures, so
it was very useful to be able to work with the Touch Bionics'
therapist on these skills."
A few weeks after leaving the Centre of Excellence,
Patrick found life had changed a lot.
"... everything is different," he says. "It's the little things
that are important, like being able to hold a glass while you pour
into it, or being able to cut up the food on my plate, rather than
having someone else do it for me."
"When I go back to school after the holidays, I'm looking
forward to Tech class, because I have never been able to do things
like hold a centre punch and a hammer at the same time without
At home, Patrick adjusts the features of his device using the
end-user version of the control software. The software allows him
to select different grip patterns and gestures, and to monitor his
myoelectric impulses via an on-screen graph.
"I find I'm mostly using index point, pinch grip and lateral
grip from day to day, although I usually only move between two of
them at any one time," explains Patrick. "I use hold-open and
co-contract signals to activate them, and I'm training myself to
get better at using the double-impulse using the graph screen."
Patrick opted for the jet black robotic i-limb skin active
covering for his device. Touch Bionics offers both robotic and a
range of lifelike coverings for its products. He was also initially
concerned about the size of the device, which is not usually
intended for people under the age of 16, but was pleasantly
surprised with the result.
"The size is actually quite suitable for me. When I'm wearing my
i-limb with a long sleeve, you wouldn't know that
it's not my hand... apart from the fact that it's black," he adds
with a laugh.
Overall, Patrick is delighted with his
"... it's so responsive and easy to use... I really feel like I
knew how to use it even before I was fitted!" he says. "And it's
been great to see the reaction from other people too. When people
used to see my hand before, they would go 'Oh', but now they see my
new hand and go "Ooooh!'"
i-limb ultra and 2012 Olympics
In February 2012, Patrick's prosthesis was upgraded to the
ultra, the latest version of Touch Bionics' prosthetic
hand. With new software, longer battery life, more features
and variable grip strength, the i-limb ultra
is the most advanced prosthetic hand available.
On July 26th, Patrick proudly carried the Olympic Flame into
Trafalgar Square after being selected as a Torchbearer for the
London 2012 Olympics.
i-limb ultra revolution
In April 2013, Patrick was fitted with the i-limb
ultra revolution, a new prosthetic hand from Touch
Bionics with a powered rotating thumb and a mobile app to
allow selection of a wider range of hand movements and
"The great thing about the i-limb ultra
revolution is that it really allows me to do things much
faster and more naturally," said Patrick. "I no longer have to use
my other hand to adjust the thumb for different grip positions and
the app means that I can access so many different options at any
time because it's all on my phone. It's really going to help
increase my independence, which is so important to me."
All images credit: Rosie Kane