Evan English, president of Olde English Outfitters in Tipp City, Ohio calls it a “hand” because he doesn’t know how else to put it. The hand that helps 14-year-old Parker Savard hold his bow steady looks more like a piece of machinery than conventional prostheses. For Parker, the hand is the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle that lets him partake in a sport he finds fascinating–not to mention that it allowed him to bowhunt with his father for the first time in his life.
While Parker is like any other teenager in interests and behavior, he is unlike any other in the fact that he was born without a right hand.
“The wrist joint is there, but the hand never developed,” said English, a long-time friend of the family who attended college with Parker’s mother and father. English began working on a prosthetic hand to hold a bow for Parker about three years ago, after the boy expressed interest in wanting to try the sport while he watched Olympic archers on TV in 2008.
Years of development and four unsuccessful models came and went before English and Parker’s father finally had a working model.
“None of us are scientists,” English said.”When we got it all right, he shot five or six shots, and I was standing there and I said, ‘Well?’ And this great big smile came over his face and I said, ‘that’s the payoff right there! That’s what we were shooting for!'”
The “forearm” is a carbon fiber sleeve that slips over the missing limb to support the entire bow-wielding structure, which is common in many prostheses. At the end of the arm is a “hand” made of aluminum, which attaches to a Bowtech Assassin compound bow where the grip normally would be. A sling goes from the thumb to the forefinger and keeps the bow from jumping out of the hand.
“There’s a channel that’s about three-fourths of an inch to an inch deep that the aluminum handle riser sits into, and it’s rounded on the inside,” English said. “And of course we had to flatten off one side to make sure it didn’t interfere with the arrow shelf… it also lets the bow rock a little bit as it does with our hand.”
English said the prosthesis was built with materials that any prosthetist can put together and can feasibly be mounted to any bow with a detachable grip.
“Now, the angles and so forth required a bit of trial-and-error so the carbon fiber wouldn’t hit the string when the bow went off,” English said.
A retired machinist and friend, Del Schindler, and prosthetist Karl Burk, were brought in to help with the final design. Burk, who operates Action Prosthetics in Troy, Ohio was a great asset to the construction of the prosthetic.
“Everything from the joint back was his doing,” English added.
Thanks to their help, Parker got to go hunting with his father for the first time ever just a few weeks ago in Ohio. Parker, who has never really shown much interest in firearms, has been spending time in his backyard shooting and practicing his aim until he gets sore. While the pair haven’t successfully harvested a deer yet, Parker reportedly enjoyed his time in the woods.
English is only the preliminary discussion phase of making these prostheses on a larger commercial production scale, but no progress will be made until Parker outgrows this model. English doesn’t want to take his bow away from him to take it apart and start taking measurements and drawings. Currently, Parker is the owner of the only prototype made by English’s crew and his father.
“All this discussion about who else this might help was always after the fact,” English said. “The goal was always for Parker to shoot.”