By Gareth Shoulder @GarethShoulder
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Videographer / director: Ian Paine
Producer: Gareth Shoulder, Ruby Coote
Editor: Ciara Cecil
Tilly Lockey, from County Durham, UK had both her arms amputated at 15 months old after contracting Group B meningococcal septicaemia.
The 13-year-old was the first teenager in Britain to receive a pair of the 3D-printed bionic arms in 2016.
Constantly in demand for her modelling work, Tilly extensively travels the world raising awareness for meningitis - the condition which almost took her life as a baby.
She told Barcroft TV: “I think if you have a disability you should be proud because you’re unique and you’re not like anybody else.
“I think social media plays a really big part, I’ve got quite a big following and I’ve been showing everyone how cool my arms can be.
“It doesn’t bother me when people stare at me because when I had [prosthetic] hands in the past I’d get looks of confusion but that needs to change.”
Tilly was initially diagnosed with an ear infection but after her mother, Sarah, noticed her daughter unresponsive and with dark marks running across her body, the 15-month-old was quickly rushed to hospital.
Doctor’s diagnosed Tilly with meningitis immediately, with hospital staff telling the family it was one of the worst cases they had ever seen.
Sarah told Barcroft TV: “This woman came over to me and just said ‘I need you to sit down.’
“She was just like ‘I think your daughter is going to die.’
“I suddenly felt really light headed… this can’t happen to her.”
Parents Sarah and Adam were told to prepare for the worst.
After spending four days in intensive care, Tilly’s family were given the news they would have to have her hands amputated.
Sarah said: “As soon as they said they were going to amputate it was a case of, but she’s alive.
“It’s really unfortunate but as least she’s got a life to remain.
“I said at the time I’m going to make her life the best life she could possibly ever have.”
Tilly was chosen to become an ambassador for Bristol based tech firm Open Bionics who manufacture The Hero Arm and help them develop bionic hands for children.
The Hero Arm is a 3D-printed multi grip bionic arm designed for people with below elbow limb difference.
The sophisticated robotic limbs respond to Tilly flexing muscles just below her elbow allowing the hand to open and close.
Tilly told Barcroft TV: “The sensors are on the inside; whatever I do with my muscles I can control the fingers.
“If I squeeze my muscles, they’ll close and if I flex, they open.
“I have four different grip modes which make it easier to hold different types of things.
After living with the bionic arms for three years, Tilly has grown to love them and often customises them with changeable cases!
She said: “My arms are very unique and personal to me that I get to change the covers to suit my mood or style. I love that about them.
“I love to match them with my outfit. I’ve got quite a lot [of different coloured] cases, I’ve got six or seven pairs.
“It’s like picking out a new handbag, what shoes you’re going to wear matching it all together – and I just love it!”
Sarah said: “Every time I see Tilly, I always feel so proud and inspired by her every single day.
“She’s an absolute dream child.
“She always puts other people before herself.”
Tilly is really excited about the future of bionics and how advancing technology can help people with limb differences.
“These hands made by Open Bionics were made within five years, if this is what they can achieve in five just think what they can achieve in another five years.”