Kiwi engineer Mathew Jury ended up in hospital with two broken arms, a broken elbow and broken wrist after a mountain biking accident in 2002.
With both arms in plaster he couldn’t do much. Mathew admits he was fortunate not to lose a limb, but the limitations of not being able to use his arms opened his eyes and provided him with empathy for amputees.
His award-winning Christchurch-based company, TASKA Prosthetics, makes state-of-the-art prosthetic hands for amputees in New Zealand, and around the world.
He is this month’s well deserving Dell Change Maker. Dell and The Project have been recognising New Zealanders who have made a positive social impact in the community through the Change Maker campaign.
Mathew says the prosthetic hands provide social confidence, and are a great conversation starter. He’s also notes intangible benefits such as reduced phantom pain when for many users.
"We’ve helped someone be able to hold his baby for the first time with a TASKA hand. Or they are now able to push their children on swings," he says. "Ultimately this is the reason why we do what we’re doing."
Amputee Mackenzie Hilsinger from North Carolina, USA agrees with this sentiment saying he was able to feel whole again when he was able to hold his new born baby with a TASKA hand.
Even before his accident Mathew was looking at becoming a prosthetic fitter. In a way his accident empowered him to pursue his dream.
At first he started inventing prosthetic hands in his garage. "In the beginning, I had a lot of trouble with hands breaking. I spoke to international specialists and they said the most expensive product on the market had exactly the same problem. So if you solve this issue, then you’ll have a robust product."
This was enough motivation for Mathew to give it a go. "I felt I had to give it a go. I didn’t know where it would lead, but I had to try."
The company didn’t really start to get serious traction until its first patent application, which was endorsed by US professionals.
The name TASKA represents what the team stands for - allowing amputees to wear a prosthetic hand and perform normal, everyday tasks.
Fast forward to 2020 and TASKA has now made hundreds of hands selling them mostly in the USA, Germany, UK, Scandinavia and France.
The high tech hands are water-resistant, robust and durable. "You can wash the dishes with it, walk in the rain with it, and pretty much thrash it all the while knowing it won’t break," he says.
The hand is flexible and robust, and in the current COVID-19 climate it’s water-proof so you can wash your hands many times if you need to.
Mathew says he gets a lot of insight from amputees, and it appears their lives have been changed by his technology.
NZ-based Taska user Rik Walker says the impact of his TASKA hand has been profound, "I even feel like I’m a better father," he says. "Nowadays, I’m just like all the other dads…maybe even a little bit cooler, given I’m the only one with a bionic arm!"
"I can help around the house, cook dinner for the family, and even played a key role in the renovation of our home. The introduction of the TASKA hand into my life has been a truly empowering experience!," Rik says.
The sky’s the limit for Mathew who wants to reach as many amputees as possible, so the TASKA team will keep working on developing more hands suitable for men, women and also teens.
If you know someone who goes that extra mile to support and shape a better future for their communities, nominate them here and they could be a winner of a brand new Dell XPS 13 laptop.
This article is brought to you by Dell