Michelangelo hand: First person in the UK to receive life-changing prosthetic hand has treatment at Scottish hospital

A 57 year-old woman has become the first NHS patient in the UK to receive the life-changing ‘Michelangelo’ bionic hand at a hospital in Glasgow after contracting sepsis from a paper cut.

Tech experts helping Marguerite Henderson fit her new bionic 'Michelangelo hand' over Zoom (Photo: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde).
Tech experts helping Marguerite Henderson fit her new bionic 'Michelangelo hand' over Zoom (Photo: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde).

For the last year, Marguerite Henderson has been under the care of specialist prosthetic staff at the WestMARC centre on the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Campus in Glasgow.

However, now her new bionic hand is up and running and the 57 year-old is grateful for the independence it has given her.

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Marguerite said: “I’ve only had it a few weeks, but already it’s helping me to be more independent. It will mean very simple things like cutting my own food, eating different things, feeling comfortable about eating out – I can’t wait to eat a burger, which of course you need two hands for.”

After sepsis ripped through her body in a matter of days as a result of a minor paper cut back in February 2018, Marguerite had to have both legs and her left arm amputated.

The right hand was partially saved and with thanks to the Michelangelo hand operation she has been able to have a functioning left arm once more.

She said: “I am so glad the surgeon was able to save part of my hand. I can use it to type, sew, phone people and do my own hair, use my wheelchair and lots more. It’s not the life I would have chosen but I owe my life to the NHS.

“My new left hand will make me so much more independent. It just opens up so many things for me now. I am very lucky.”

Marguerite’s new high-tech hand works by her firing different muscles in her forearm to trigger the hand to do different movements.

Vincent MacEachen, senior prosthetist explained: “The Michelangelo hand is quite intuitive. There are two sensors in the socket on Marguerite’s arm – basically one to open and one to close.

“How strongly Marguerite flexes her muscles determines the speed and the movement the hand makes. With practise she can produce several movements – open, close, rotate the wrist left and right and position the thumb for different grasps.

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"Marguerite was a natural – it normally takes many weeks to get used to a new hand, but you can normally tell within five minutes if someone is a good prospect.”

To abide by social distancing rules, the hand was fitted over zoom by expert technical operators.

Alan Gordon and Alistair Ward, from the hand’s manufacturer Ottobock, watched Marguerite’s responses remotely, then relayed instructions about the adjustments to make.

They repeated this process until the hand was working perfectly.

Marguerite has thanked the team at the hospital centre based in Glasgow which has given her so much of her independence back.

She said: “Everyone at WestMARC has been amazing. For the smile at the front door to the time that staff spend making sure you are happy, each and every one of them is special.

“This is not a job for them; it’s a vocation and I can’t thank them enough for everyone they have done for me.

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“I feel so privileged to be given this amazing hand and every day it’s helping me do more and more.”

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