Saturday, May 26, 2007

Tot's dad designs unique prostheses

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Michael Haag was born with a rare birth defect that left him with only one fully developed hand. But it's not keeping him from doing just about everything other children do.

"Yay, I caught Bobbi," the precocious 3-year-old exclaimed Monday morning, as he used a specially designed prosthetic fishing rod to reel in his favorite stuffed bunny in his family's living room. "She's heavy!"

Thanks to his gadget-minded father, other disabled children one day may have similar experiences.

So far, Robert Haag has crafted two "helping hands," which are child-friendly prostheses that allow his son to have greater use of his left hand — and have a little fun along the way.

Haag recently teamed with a nonprofit group called the Open Prosthetics Group to try to mass-produce his inventions...

...Michael was born with congenital limb loss, a birth defect that each year afflicts about 400 children born in the United States alone, according to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

Instead of settling for standard prosthetic options, Robert Haag went to work inventing his own...

He figured out how to disassemble the standard adult-sized prosthetic limbs and reattach kid-friendly things like a dinosaur head, whose mouth opens and closes when Michael moves his arms, allowing him to grasp toys and other items between its "jaws."

Michael's fishing rod is a store-bought Spider-Man reel attached to the end of a prosthetic arm. Michael used it to catch several fish on a recent trip to Florida.

"They were blowfish," he explained Monday, showing off his red and blue fishing pole.

Through Open Prosthetics Group, families like the Haags share information on the Internet in hopes that a manufacturer will step forward.

"If they can take our ideas and use them to help other kids, God bless them," Robert Haag said.

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