Ballynahinch boy Alfie reaching for the stars with new arm

Ballynahinch boy Alfie reaching for the stars with new arm

9 October 2019

LIFE for Ballynahinch Primary School pupil Alfie Hunter is even better since a real-life hero came to his aid.

The little boy — born without his right lower arm — now has a new “bionic” limb after an anonymous US businessman gave nearly £9,000 to make his dream come true.

The eight-year-old has settled into the new school term using his new 3D printed Hero Arm from Open Bionics.

He is the first child in Northern Ireland to receive this type of prosthesis which uses the latest technology. 

Since he was four, the P5 pupil dreamt of getting the fully intuitive bionic arm with multi-grip functionality.

His parents Neil and Laverne desperately wanted to provide their son with this latest advance in prosthesis.

When Alfie turned eight in May, the Ballynahinch couple travelled to visit the Galway tech company Open Bionics to get their son fitted for the arm.

But they were heartbroken for Alfie when they realised that the cost, along with insurance, was prohibitive.

Mrs Laverne set up a fundraising page and, against the odds, Kentucky steel fabrication company owner, Richel Gimmel, learnt on social media of Alfie’s appeal and he contacted the Hunters to arrange a donation. 

Things progressed fast after that with the Hunters meeting Mr Gimmel and his family when they travelled to Ireland for a holiday in July.

Alfie received his bionic arm in August and was pleased as punch to have shown it off to all his classmates last month.

He was also the centre of attention last week when UTV Live came to film a report at how he was  getting on with his new limb.

Ballynahinch primary principal, Michael Moore, said: “I think Alfie has enjoyed the attention and we can see him growing in confidence every day. 

“He was always an independent wee boy before getting the bionic arm and he still is. We believe he is still finding out the additional things he can do with his new hand and there’s still improvements ahead.”

Mr Moore said Alfie learnt to write with his left hand and still does but there is hope that over time, that he might be able to write and use his prosthesis hand for everything he normally does with his left hand.

He says that Alfie’s classmates and other pupils have accepted the new addition to the P5 pupil very well.

Mr Moore added: “We’re never have had any problems with other children understanding about Alfie. I think adults could learn from children as they might ask a question about the arm but once it’s answered, they move on as they are very accepting.”