MONCTON, N.B. — A New Brunswick man who recently lost a finger decided he wouldn’t sit around feeling down, and set about creating a mechanical replacement.
A severe infection cost 44-year-old Richard Roy of Moncton the index finger from his left hand earlier this week.
Roy says instead of “sitting on my butt feeling depressed,” he decided to make his own prosthetic.
He used a Harley-Davidson motorcycle foot peg to replace the bone closest to the hand, and a clamp used to hold down a truck cap for the bone further from the hand.
He’s also attaching some parts from a remote-controlled toy car to his homemade appendage so that, when he flexes his hand, the finger will bend and grasp objects.
So far, it looks like Roy’s prosthetic is going to work, but he won’t know until next week, when the swelling goes down enough for him to fit the rig onto the stump of his missing digit.
Everyone who has seen the contraption has marvelled at it, Roy says.
“Everybody’s shaking their heads around here.”
Roy has worked in construction for decades and currently erects steel for new buildings. Despite the dangers of his job, he’s never gotten hurt.
But a couple of weeks ago, Roy’s arm started to swell. The diagnosis: a severe infection that likely invaded his hand through a cut.
While he was lucky to lose only one finger, he didn’t feel lucky until he looked around the hospital and saw patients who had lost arms and legs. Those patients inspired him.
“So then I thought, well, I might as well get started.”
Roy first looked at prosthetic fingers on the Internet, which at $10,000 were out of his price range.
Then he started sketching on paper some plans to create his own. He rummaged around the garage to find some parts which he altered to fit his needs, cutting and sanding them down.
The finger is lined with weather-stripping, typically used to help seal drafty doors.
In this case, it will allow Roy to easily flip pages while reading or better grasp slippery or smooth objects.
The mechanism from the old remote-controlled car will allow the finger to flex whenever he moves his hand a certain way. It will allow him to grasp and use tools, like a hammer.
But with no feeling in the finger, Roy thinks his guitar-playing days could be over for good.
Roy said the contraption doesn’t look as good as a “real” prosthetic finger but should work just as well, or better, than the $10,000 models.
Having undergone the amputation just this week, Roy’s hand is still too swollen to attach the fake finger but the swelling is going down and he’ll soon be able to give it a test drive.
He can’t wait.
With such a physically demanding job, Roy isn’t used to sitting around but, so far, he’s endured two weeks in hospital prior to the amputation and now he has to sit home attached to an intravenous drip for more weeks to come.
“So I thought that I might as well do something about it instead of moping around feeling sorry for myself,” he says.