Drexel student receives bionic hand

PHILADELPHIA - December 9, 2011

On Friday's episode of Extreme Makeover Home Edition, teenager Wyzhir Johnson received a new home and a state-of-the-art artificial arm to replace the arm he lost in an accident.

But there was another person who got a big surprise from the Makeover crew.

A birth defect left Deepak Siromani without a full left arm. The 27-year-old doctoral engineering student at Drexel learned to make do.

Still, sometimes, he wished he had 2 working hands.

"Holding a cup of coffee while trying to open a door or holding a plate while serving food," Deepak explained.

Prosthetic arms never worked very well.

A few years ago, he heard about the iLimb "bionic" hand, but figured the price was way beyond his means as a doctoral student.

But in late September, he learned he'd get one after all!

Wyzhir Johnson received his artificial arm as a gift from the arms maker and Ability Prosthetics.

That left money which was originally raised to pay for his arm. So Wyzhir paid it forward, and Deepak was picked to receive it.

"It literally took me a few weeks for all of this to sink in," said Deepak.

The iLimb Ultra is the closest device yet to a natural hand. Each finger moves independently, and bends at the natural joints.

Nerves on Deepak's arm activate switches in the arm socket to begin movements. A series of tiny motors move the fingers.

"When I put this on, I was able to open and close it, that was pretty incredible; something I've never known before," said Deepak.

The hand has the power to gradually increase its grip, something Deepak admits will take time.

He has already learned to hold a plate and pour water, which all amazes the mechanical engineer.

"The possibilities of what I can do with it are endless," Deepak said.

Deepak says he'll never forget this generosity, and hopes someday soon he will get to pay it forward.

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