Schoolboy shows off £13,000 bionic arm to generous plumber who funded it

Video report by Granada Reports Journalist Rachel Pritchard

A young boy with a £13,000 bionic arm has shaken the hand of the generous plumber who funded it.

Alex Sparkes, seven, was born without a right forearm. After spending birthdays "wishing" it would grow back, his parents began fundraising for the motorised prosthetic.

When Burnley plumber James Anderson heard about it, he fulfilled the family's online crowd-funder with a single payment.

Meeting the youngster, from Oswaldtwistle, after the arm was fitted, James asked Alex to "high five... squeeze" and "tickle" his hand.

As the motors in the arm whirred, James said: "Wow! That's absolutely amazing mate! Honest to God."

The bionic arm interprets muscle movements in Alex's upper arm to move its fingers.

Alex never enjoyed wearing prosthetics until he tried the "Hero Arm", and his loved ones say his face lit-up when he was able to make it move.

The device, made by a company that 3D prints prosthetic limbs, uses sensors to register muscle movements in the upper arm and turn those into hand motions.

He told ITV News about the "loads of things" he now wants to do with his new bionic arm.

"I want to brush my teeth," Alex said, "Reel-in a rod when I fish and play with two hands.

"Play catch and learn how to draw with this [bionic] hand because I can draw with [the other] hand."

James' social enterprise firm Depher, based in Burnley, has helped many people in need.

Originally setup to give free plumbing work to elderly and disabled individuals, it has branched out into providing wider support and food parcels.

The plumber explained he chose to pay for Alex's arm as he could see the schoolboy's inner "strength."

He said: "When I saw that he needed this so he could go fishing with his Dad, go bike-riding and play football - just do the normal things that a child would do with his mates outside - I immediately fell in love with it.

"You could see the strength inside of him, You could see the strength in his eyes.

"It was a no brainer. I transferred the money to the bank and said: there you go, it's done."

When James first met Alex to deliver the good news, back in May, Alex had watering eyes thanks to hay fever.

Tears of happiness followed for Alex, and his parents, as James revealed the new arm was a reality.

In a video of the touching moment, James shows Alex an image of the receipt and asks: "Do you know what that means?"

"No" says Alex.

James says: "That means I've just paid for your new arm. So, hopefully, sooner rather than later you're going to go fishing with your Dad."

Alex then cheers and wells up.

Alex will now be able to play football while using his bionic arm. Credit: MEN Media

Parents Dionne and Robin are now hope their son will have a brighter, happier future doing everything he wants to do.

"As his parents," Robin said, "we’re looking forward to him becoming an independent and outgoing seven year old.

"One that he doesn't always have to keep looking back towards where his mum and dad are for help.

"Where he could just go forward and enjoy his life."

Dionne added the family cannot thank James enough. "He’s an incredible man, isn’t he?" she said.

"He’s just helping so many people, whether it's his food banks or his plumbing.

"He’s just one man helping loads of people. The world definitely needs more James Andersons. It really does."

The Sparkes family say James is an "incredible man" for helping their son. Credit: ITV News

The bionic limb is longer than Alex's other arm, giving it room to grow with him as he gets older.

He will need a replacement to match his size, when he reaches his mid-teens.

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