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Grand Junction boy receives prosthetic hand

Published: Oct. 4, 2021 at 8:57 PM MDT|Updated: Oct. 5, 2021 at 12:40 AM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT) - A young boy living in Grand Junction just recently received a high-tech prosthetic arm from a company called Unlimited Tomorrow.

Rhyker was born with amniotic band syndrome, meaning he was born without a right hand, which was very difficult for him as a young kid. But the family never gave up hope to get him a prosthetic arm. Finally this year, a donor came through.

“He’s thought of everything that he can make his nubby into,” said mother Melissa Colunga. “Pieces he can put it in, a little gun, drumsticks when he was 3 he’d tape drumsticks to it & beat the drums.”

After years of complications with getting a prosthetic arm for 9-year-old Rhyker Colunga, a donor came through from a company in New York called Unlimited Tomorrow. His parents decided to surprise him with the prosthetic when it came time for the reveal.

“How long was that in there? Actually, the day daddy didn’t let me come out of the room, I already knew it came,” said Rhyker. “I was like that’s my hand it has to be. This whole time he’s never opened that package that was in the garage.”

Rhyker is currently in 4th grade. He should have been right handed, so it was very difficult for him to write in school.

“I think it’ll really help him in school,” said Melissa. “For a long time he started to get really self conscious about it. He would hide it & start to act kinda weird. But we pushed him to talk to people about it, be open, & make it funny. Like a shark bit it off.”

His parents say Rhyker is at a perfect age to try a prosthetic, so he has an opportunity to use one if he chooses to.

The way it works is, an electrode inside the prosthetic attaches to the limb, which reads Rhyker’s muscle movement. When Rhyler flexes his muscle it will sense 6 different grips, like grabbing something, waving, pointing, or closing or opening his hand. Then the prosthetic will do it using a motor.

“The TrueLimb sensors recognize the difference an actual muscle pulse to activate a grip versus natural movement of his arm where he’s not necessarily looking to activate a grip,” said Unlimited Tomorrow TrueLimb Advisor Stephanie Schwartz.

To learn how to control it, Rhyler will watch a number of videos which includes training exercises.

“There’s 8 tasks that he’ll follow to calibrate his sensors,” said Schwartz. “Essentially he’s training those sensors so they know when to activate a grip from the simple pulse of his muscles.”

Rhyker has been waiting for this prosthetic arm since the summer before he began kindergarten. He says first he wants to master writing and holding things like a glass. Eventually, he’s excited to eventually play sports or learn to play an instrument.

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