Giving a hand to bring change
et h v a n As r emembers hearing her husband Richard shout from the front door: “Babe! We need to go to the hospital!” It was a Saturday afternoon and she was exhausted and ready to rest. As she made her way downstairs she thought, ‘Oh, what have you done now?’, but nothing could have prepared her for what she saw. “It was this gruesome scene and I thought, ‘Oh okay, that’s what you did.’”
Richard had just cut off two of his f ingers and partially severed a third while working with a table saw in his workshop.
The doctors were unable to reattach his fingers so Richard started to think of ways he could get new fingers himself.
Within a few months of his accident, Richard had developed a prototype of a hand, which could be attached to a limb without any electricity or robotics and today he is co-owner of a 3D printing company called RoboBeast.
“Craftsmen always cut themselves, I just did a proper job. It was a freak accident and I had to get over it. Figuring out how to fix it was my therapy,” he says.
THE BIRTH OF ROBOHAND
Richard refused to stay in hospital after his surgery, saying he needed to get back to work and figure out how to do it with one hand.
He went back into his workshop and changed it around so everything was suitable for a left-handed person. He refused to feel sorry for himself because he had a project deadline for that week. He completed it on time.
“It’s funny, the client had even sent me f lowers but I didn’t want to sit on the couch and feel sorry for myself,” he says.
Beth says the experience was an emotional roller coaster for her at first, but because she knows her husband well, she knew it would have damaged him more to sit back and watch life happen to him.
Richard had hospita l bi l l s of about R180 000 and could not afford prosthetic limbs. He started looking for alternatives that would give him the same functionality at a lower cost. “A myoelectric hand can cost anything between R250 000 and R500 000 and you can’t bath or swim or anything with them because they’re electric,” says Richard.
With the internet as his friend he