Last week I properly folded a picnic blanket. I found two corners, spread them wide, and brought them neatly together. A few days before that I danced with my sister, flinging both hands in the air and lassoing them around my head carefree. These are trivial things that make my heart skip a beat because I’ve never had two hands to do them with before.
I was born a congenital with no right hand for no discernible reason. For 29 years I’ve found my own way to do things and I’ve rarely wished for a second hand. Then roughly one year ago I was approached on the street by a man who works for Steeper, a British manufacturer of prosthetic limbs. He asked if I’d be interested in trialling a new myoelectric hand. Now, I am the first person in the country to wear the Bebionic small hand – a highly advanced prosthetic with a sci-fi aesthetic and lifelike functional movements.
At first getting a prosthetic hand felt like cheating on who I am. I’ve spent my whole life being unashamed of only having one hand and changing that felt like submitting defeat. I’ve been taken aback by how much I’ve enjoyed being able to do two-handed things. But I am happy for the Bebionic to look like a robot and not like a human. I’m not trying to deceive anyone.
I’ve been explaining to people that the difference the Bebionic has made to my life is really in the details. When you’ve accepted doing things differently to everyone else, to suddenly be able to be the same is overwhelming. I’ve had a few teary moments.
When I left my hand at home last week to go to Glastonbury I felt a little lost without it. I never thought I’d say that. In my line of work (as a Product Manager for website), we talk a lot about user needs. What impresses me about the Bebionic is not how cool it looks, or how it uses incredible technology, it’s that it has been designed well enough to do what I need that I’m changing 29 years of habit.