A teenage Formula One fan has been fitted with a souped-up artificial hand after he offered to sell advertising space to Mercedes – on his prosthetic LIMB.
Brave Matthew James, 14, who was born without his left hand, sent a cheeky letter to Ross Brawn, boss of F1 team Mercedes GP Petronas, asking for £35,000 to pay for a top-of-the range artificial limb.
In return, shrewd Matthew said he would allow the company to sponsor the hand by putting the Mercedes logo on it – like ads seen on F1 cars.
But Mercedes where so touched by Matthew’s ”intelligent and moving letter” they agreed to help him and teamed up with firm Touch Bionics, who create and fit hi-tech artificial limbs.
Together they designed his own customised i-LIMB Pulse – the most advanced prosthetic limb in the world.
The hand is so versatile Matthew can grip a pen to draw pictures and write, tie his shoe laces and catch a ball.
The hand, made from high-grade plastic with a black silicone socket, literally plugs into Matthew’s arm.
Two electrodes on the inside of the socket detect electrical impulses made by the muscles in Matthew’s lower arm.
The signals are then beamed to a mini-computer in the palm which translates the messages into movements, replicating a normal hand.
After being fitted with the hand last Friday Matthew said: ”It is just amazing.
”My old artificial hand was not great, it had a pretty basic open close mechanism similar to a clamp.
”But with this one I can do everything, it is just like the real thing.
”It is going to make such a big difference to my life.
”It also looks really cool – the outer-shell is see through so you can actually see the mechanics working.
”They are even going to put a little Mercedes badge by the wrist.”
Each finger is powered by an individual motor which allows the digits to move independently.
The hand is protected by an aluminium chassis-style casing which is capable of supporting a load of up to 90kg (14st).
Amazingly, it is even fitted with Bluetooth technology to allow Matthew to hook up to a computer wirelessly to track the strength and speed of his movements.
Matthew, from Wokingham, Berks., travelled to Touch Bionic’s HQ in Livingston, Scotland, to take control of his new hand.
Matthew, who lives with his father Rob, 44, mum Tina, 42, said: ”I am actually looking forward to getting back to school so I can test it out, it’s going to be so much fun.
”I like science and am planning to go into engineering but I used to struggle with lab experiments – now they should not be a problem.
”I also love sport but anything that involves two hands, like cricket, has always been a struggle but now I can compete with the other lads.
”It is really amazing technology and I am so grateful to Touch Bionics and Mercedes.”
After receiving the letter in June, Mercedes invited Matthew to their headquarters, where he toured the factory and met racing legend Michael Schumacher.
The company said they were unable to pay for the hand but agreed to help Matthew raise the money, by asking fans and sponsors to make donations.
Touch Bionics also agreed to fit the hand and train Matthew at their state of the art facilities for free, which would have otherwise cost £25,000.
Matthew was born with a congenital defect which meant his left arm only developed up to his wrist.
Incredibly, Matthew, who goes to the prestigious Reading School, is a brown belt in Karate and hopes to pursue a career as an engineer with F1.
Dad Rob, an IT consultant, said: ”We are so proud of him.
”He has wanted a Touch Bionics limb since he was young but we have never been able to afford it.
”He contacted Mercedes on his own volition and they were so impressed by his intelligence and maturity that they agreed to help.
”He has never let his disability get him down but he has also always strived to achieve his best and now he truly feels he can with the i-LIMB Pulse.
”It’s about having the best tool available to allow him to live his life and get on with what he wants to do.”
Ruth Burns, spokeswoman for Touch Bionics, said the technology allowed patients to experience a wide range of natural movement.
She said: ”The hand works by taking instructions from the muscles in the residual limb. It’s a case of a patient practising what muscles trigger the right movements.
”Patients can’t sense touch but they can feel vibrations through the hand.
”Most patients find it hard to move the hand at first but Matthew has already progressed to several movements. He is very bright.”
Ross Brawn, who attended the same school as Matthew, said: ”Matthew’s letter to the team was very touching.
”It was of particular personal significance given my close relationship to Reading School.
”Looking closely at the i-LIMB Pulse, we realised how much our technologies in Formula One had in common with those used to create this cutting-edge prosthetic limb.
”We realised we may be able to offer some synergies to Touch Bionics to assist their invaluable research.
”Meeting Matthew, and hearing first-hand how the new device would improve his quality of life, was a pleasure and I am delighted that our initial contact has now led to such a positive conclusion.”