In 2011, then engineering students Sarah Lightbody and Kellner Pruett and their professor Scott Pierce resolved to find functional, properly fitted prosthetic arms for Newton Milton, a man who had lost all of his limbs after he was electrocuted while working construction nine years earlier. They met Milton during a biennial “Tech and Society” field trip to deliver assistive devices that students in the class had designed for patients at an occupational therapy clinic in Ilhéus, Brazil.
Fitting prosthetic limbs is always difficult, let alone when the patient is in a Portuguese-speaking country 4,500 miles away. Fortunately, Pierce and his students got a lot of help from Mary Grant and the University of Virginia Health System prosthetics clinic.
Although Lightbody and Pruett graduated in 2012, Pierce has persisted. It’s taken time, but he now has the molds Grant needs to fabricate fitted sockets, and she has agreed to assemble the limbs for free. He also has people lined up to deliver them to Brazil in June 2014. He is trying to raise $2,500 to purchase the parts by late January, so Grant can meet the delivery schedule.
Why is he doing it?
“It was really inspiring how he’s accepted what’s happened to him, that it’s out of his control and he is happy to be alive every day,” Pierce says. “He was so nice to us and so inspiring about how you should face adversity in your life. And so we just decided we’re going to do something to help this guy.”