A helping hand: After accident, kindness found online

Published 7:47 am Wednesday, December 28, 2016

For half a year, Skylar Ordoyne didn’t have any fingers on his left hand.

Ordoyne lost them on May 20 in a chemical explosion that left him deaf and partly blind in his left eye. Over weeks and months, his vision began to return. After surgeries, his hearing improved.

But the fingers and the thumb were another matter. The digits could never return—at least not naturally. No surgery would fix this. But a three-dimensional printer could help.

Michelle Ordoyne Ferguson, Ordoyne’s mother, said she began looking for prosthetics five months ago, but the going was slow. Ferguson said she tried several prosthetic suppliers, but each one fell through.

“The mama in me would not give up,” she said. “I prayed about it and prayed about it and Googled it.”

She said she found one place that could send her schematics for a prosthetic, but she would have to download the model and print it—but she didn’t have a 3-D printer. Then, several weeks ago, she found out about enablingthefuture.org, a website that connects people who have access to 3-D printers to people who need prosthetic limbs. She signed her son up for a hand.

“Within seconds, this professor from Houston said, ‘I can help you,’” she said.

Exactly two weeks ago Wednesday, she and Ordoyne made a plaster cast of his hand and sent it to Mehmet Gokcek, a teacher at Harmony Public Schools Center for STEM Education. Ferguson said Gokcek promised to get a prosthetic hand to Ordoyne in time for Christmas and, true to his word, a box arrived on Dec. 23.

“I am truly happy with this man,” said Ferguson. “He gave us a Christmas miracle.”

In the days since, Ferguson said her son has been testing out the new device with everyday tasks like brushing teeth.

However, even if the fine motor skills need some practice, Ordoyne said he’s happy.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “I can hold my fishing pole and I can hold my gun.”

Ferguson said the rest of her son’s body seems to be mending. After several surgeries, she said his hearing seems to be getting back to normal and his vision is improving in his left eye.

But Ferguson said there’s nothing quite like the random strangers online who are willing to help print prosthetic limbs.

“The possibilities are endless with these people,” she said. “I think it’s truly amazing and if we could just share what took me seven months to find out. … I just think that the world needs to know about these 3-D prosthetics.”

Ferguson said most insurance doesn’t cover prosthetic limbs, but 3-D printers mean limbs are affordable even without insurance. According to Ferguson, a regular prosthetic hand would have cost $35,000 put 3-D limbs cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000.

“They’re very inexpensive,” she said.

For his part, Ordoyne said even after the explosion, he was never without hope.

“I was hopeful,” he said. And, he added, he hopes other accident victims remain optimistic, too.

“Keep your faith and don’t give up,” he said.