The team receives hundred of emails and letters from our fans around the world every week. Support for the team and our drivers, funny stories, touching letters from people in need… and from time to time, we receive a letter that really stands out and moves us.
Matthew James is 14 years old and wrote to Ross at the start of May. Matthew is studying at Reading School, the same school Ross that attended and still supports and visits on a regular basis. Matthew is a big fan of Formula One and lives a normal teenage life, except that Matthew has a lower arm deficiency which means that his left arm stops at his wrist.
In his letter, an amazingly funny, honest and mature one for a boy of his age, Matthew explained how his current prosthetic hand only allows him to perform basic tasks with a simple open and close grip mechanism. Instead of going for the standard ‘flesh’ colour covering which the prosthetic arm normally comes in, Matthew asked the NHS to make his last one ‘cover-free’, as the arm itself is made of carbon fibre, a material which accounts for 85% of a Formula One car!
Matthew also explained that his target now was to be able to afford a more functional prosthetic arm, and he already had in mind a specific model: The i-LIMB™ Pulse. Developed by British company Touch Bionics, the new hand would give him more control and freedom, and a much greater range of motions. The only issue: the hand is very expensive and is not generally available through the NHS.
Matthew’s idea was therefore to offer the team a ‘world first’ deal to fund the arm in exchange for a complete brand sponsorship and livery, as we do on our car!
Ross and the team were so moved by this unique letter that we got in touch with Matthew and his dad, Robert. After a few phone calls, a factory tour was organised for Matthew, and at the same time, a technical representative from the team contacted Touch Bionics to start initial discussions on what could be done to help Matthew.
The two companies are currently looking at ways to work together to make Matthew’s wish come true, and at possible synergies between the team and Touch Bionics on compatible technologies.
We talked to Matthew, and his dad, after their tour to find out what they thought of the experience. “Meeting Ross was amazing” were Matthew’s first words. A few minutes after their first introduction, Matthew still couldn’t quite believe it: “I always really admired him as a role model. He obviously went to Reading School so there’s that link. It was really interesting to be able to talk to him”.
Matthew also enjoyed the chance to see all the activities going on behind the scenes at the factory: “It was great. The process of making a car is just outstanding, it’s so complicated and there’s so many stages involved… to be able to see every individual piece of machinery used in the process to make the car… it was just brilliant.”
Matthew explained in detail the difference between his current prosthetic hand and the i-LIMB™ Pulse made by Touch Bionics: “My current arm has two sensors located at the end which literally pick up the impulses of the muscles in my lower arm. It is a simple ‘open and close’ mechanism, like a claw. The new hand, the i-LIMB™ Pulse, has five individual motors in each finger and therefore each finger can move individually. Whilst it is a open/close mechanism as well, it has different modes and settings which you can use to change the ‘opening mode’, so for example you can go from operating all fingers to using two and it locks the other three.”
Robert, Matthew’s very proud dad, explained how much Matthew is driven on a day to day basis: “He always wanted to be the best he can. The arm he has at the moment gives him the basic functionality and what Matthew wants is to get that stage further.The i-LIMB™ Pulse really gives you more flexibility in what you can do with a prosthetic hand. You have a limb which looks more natural but also works in a much more natural way so you can pick up an object with the individually motored fingers. It’s about having the best tool available to allow Matthew to live his life and get on with what he wants to do.”
The team is working with Matthew, his family and Touch Bionics to help achieve his wish, and we will keep you updated on this amazing story very soon…
For more information about Touch Bionics, please visit their website at http://www.touchbionics.com