Cobble Hill’s Malcolm Taylor was fitted with a new myoelectric arm earlier this year. (Submitted)

Cobble Hill’s Malcolm Taylor was fitted with a new myoelectric arm earlier this year. (Submitted)

B.C. teen getting in touch with his new myoelectric arm

Malcolm Taylor’s prosthetic can sense and respond to muscle impulses

Malcolm Taylor doesn’t mind talking about his arm.

You’re not going to bring up anything the 14-year-old from the rural southern Vancouver Island community of Cobble Hill hasn’t already heard.

“I have had every kind of question,” he assures.

A Grade 9 student at Frances Kelsey Secondary School, Taylor was born with just one hand, his left arm ending just a little bit above the elbow. Last year, he was fitted with a myoelectric arm, which can sense muscle impulses and allows him to open and close the hand simply by flexing the muscles in his residual limb.

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Taylor has had different non-electrical prosthetics in the past, and a previous electrical one, but this is the best one he’s ever had. It’s not quite state-of-the-art, he says, but it’s the best in terms of price and functionality.

The arm was paid for by the War Amps CHAMP program. The War Amps began more than 100 years ago to assist war amputee veterans returning from the First World War. It has expanded its programs over the years to support all amputees.

“They pay for all my prosthetics,” Taylor points out. “It makes life a lot easier.”

Taylor received his current prosthetic about six months ago after working with beta versions before that. The process involved having a cast taken from his arm, getting the prosthetic custom-fitted, and having the electrodes fine-tuned. The work is done by a prosthesist, and isn’t invasive.

“There’s no surgery,” Taylor explains. “I can take it on and off at any time.”

The many steps were worth it for the new arm.

“I can do a lot more things than I could with the other one,” Taylor says.

The myoelectric arm allows for gripping motions that Taylor’s previous prostetics didn’t, like grabbing a stick.

“I’ve tried throwing things but with little success,” he says, adding that would change with practice. It definitely makes a difference that he grew up without a hand.

“It would probably be easier for someone who has had a hand before to get the hang of it,” he says.

Taylor’s previous prosthetics didn’t have nearly as much going for them.

“Have you seen a hook hand in a pirate movie?” he asks. “It’s not inaccurate.”

He couldn’t have picked up a medical face mask with the old one, for example. And the new one works well enough that he doesn’t have to put one thing down to pick another up.

“It takes away that extra step that’s always annoying,” he says.

Taylor will have to get a new prosthetic, eventually, but he can probably get this one refitted before that happens.

“They’re supposed to be very tight,” he relates. “So you grow out of them really quickly.”

Other kids at school definitely approve of this one.

“They think it’s really cool,” Taylor says.

Not only is he not shy about discussing the arm, he admits he may even show off from time to time.

“I can punch walls,” he says with a mischievous laugh. “So I do that occasionally.”

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