Kewanee woman is first local patient with bionic fingers

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Judy Griffin recalls the workplace injury that claimed multiple fingers on both hands.

"It's the same as losing a loved one," she said. "Someone dies. That part of my body died."

But nearly sixteen years to the day of her accident, that tragedy is turning to triumph.

"It's fantastic," she said.

Judy is the first local patient to receive bionic fingers. It's the newest technology to restore fit and function for amputees.

"I'm going to have more freedom," she said. "It will help build my confidence up."

The bionic fingers cost up to $100,000. Organizers say that insurance will cover the procedure in most cases.

"It changes the entire mindset for a patient that's had this type of injury," said Dr. Thomas VonGillern, ORA Orthopedics.

Julian Wells custom designed the creation at Advanced Arm Dynamics in Waterloo, Iowa.

"The more the muscles are being used, the smoother the signals get," he said.

Elaborate sensors detect hand muscles. That restores both movement and ability.

"Julian showed me the fingers, and I go, wow," she recalled. "I just couldn't believe it. It just blew my mind."

This new technology has only been around about a year. It was originally designed for injured veterans, but now it's finding a place with civilian patients like Judy Griffin.

As Judy demonstrates  simple tasks for the first time, it's only the beginning. She'll continue with occupational therapy. Little by little, there will be hope in her hands again.

"You go through the laughter, tears and prayers," she concluded. "It's mainly the laughter. You have to learn to laugh at yourself."

For Judy Griffin, those chuckles now represent a new life that's all within reach.