Michigan man receives groundbreaking new robotic arm

Michigan man receives groundbreaking new robotic arm. (WWMT/Jacob Berent)

A West Michigan man is one of the first people in the country to receive a prosthetic outfitted with several technological advances.

Kevin Breen, of Alto, is a quadruple amputee and he has had some problems with prosthetic limbs in the past.

“Some of the grips are not sensitive, so I was breaking stuff. I grab a hot coffee cup, and pffsssh you spill hot coffee all over. So I have to be really careful,“ Breen said.

That’s until he became the first man in Michigan to receive a new robotic arm on the cutting edge of technology. The arm is called the Taska and was developed in Austraila by the and can be programmed through an app to load and unload different grips to cater to Breen’s needs. The days of crushing coffee cups are over for Breen.

"There's 16 different grip patterns, so I can load whatever I want on here or not on here. These three buttons I can change the grip patterns with it," Breen said.

Among the new “grips” Breen can do are, pointing, typing on a keyboard, holding a key, and, as he happily showed us, making the hand-horns symbol for "rock on". The "grips" are points of actuation that allow the prosthetic to act like a human hand.

“And that's the nice thing about this, is it senses that, and only grip so tight, and not wreck stuff," Breen said.

Ryan Sheridan, Breen’s prosthetist, has been fitting him for different prostheses for over two years.

"The cool feature about the Taska hand is that it's water resistant. He can help with bath time, he can wash his right hand, he can wash his car, he can use it as much as he'd like,” Sheridan said. "The waterproofing makes it the first of its kind."

Which is good for Breen, who loves to be near the water. Before his illness, he was an avid wakeboarder.

In December 2016, Kevin contracted strep throat, and infection spread to his stomach.

"It had moved to my abdomen, and got infected, and they pulled a liter and a half of puss out of my stomach. That's why my stomach hurt. It was painful," Breen said.

His wife and three kids worried as Breen went into a week-long coma.

"I went into septic shock, and they had to put pressers in, which restrict all of your blood flow, so that's how I lost my hands and feet," Breen said. “It looked like frost bite on all four limbs.”

He lost his legs below the knee. He lost his entire left hand, and has only nubs for fingers on his right. He got fixed prostheses for his feet, but needed a hand getting back into his more active lifestyle.

"It's as basic as holding a fork and being able to grip it steadily, holding a knife and being able to cut without it flying all over the place. Putting clothes on a hanger. Just simple stuff that now I can do," Breen said.

"He's a blast to work with, he has very high expectations of himself. He wants to be able to resume his life as he did, two years ago,” Sheridan said.

They even have a nickname for Breen.

“We call him Mr. Giggles when he comes in the office, because we can hear him snickering, regardless of who's in the room," Sheridan said.

"Yep! I'm a pretty happy guy. I don't know, I have a pretty good attitude, and yeah I like to laugh,” Breen said.

The Taska hand was developed in New Zealand, and Breen is one of the first Americans to receive it.

If you or anyone you know is looking for more information with prosthetic limbs, the Hanger Clinic said you can simply give them a call at (877) 442-6437 to set up an appointment or visit their website.