Hancock woman to receive 'bionic' hand


HANCOCK -- Dawn O'Leary of Hancock was 12 years old when an electric shock accident caused her to have both of her hands amputated.

Now, just in time for Mother's Day weekend, O'Leary, 49, a mother of three and grandmother of two, will regain the use of one of her limbs. Her left arm will be fitted Friday with a prosthetic i-Limb at Ability Prosthetics and Orthotics in Hagerstown.

"This is the best Mother's Day gift I could receive," O'Leary said Thursday afternoon in a telephone interview.

Time magazine named the i-Limb the "Number One Health Care Innovation of 2008." The i-Limb was manufactured by TouchBionics and fitted and designed at Ability's Gettysburg, Pa., location, and is a bionic prosthesis that will allow O'Leary to use each finger independently through the muscle and nerve signals generated from her forearm, according to a press release issued by Ability.

In 1972, O'Leary and her cousin were playing in gravel pits about 2,500 feet from her home. She was about to return home when she bent down to tie her shoe. When she raised up, her shoulder struck a high-power wire. She doesn't remember what happened next.


O'Leary lost her right arm to her shoulder and her left arm to her wrist. She spent years undergoing surgery and rehabilitation until she was fitted with prostheses for both arms. Her right arm has a prosthetic hand to allow her to wear a watch or rings. Her left arm was fitted with a hook.

O'Leary said she was so excited about the fitting she didn't think she'd be able to sleep Thursday night in anticipation. She had been fitted earlier for her preliminary socket.

Asked what the first thing she would like to do with her new hand, O'Leary said there are too many to name. She lists picking up a soda can without crushing it, which is what would happen with her hook. Or doing some things she used to do when she was younger such as riding a bicycle or going fishing.

"I want to do everything you can do with an actual hand," she said.

Read a more in-depth story Saturday and watch a video as The Herald-Mail chronicles' Dawn O'Leary's Friday fitting of the i-Limb.

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