Watch a report by Kerry Swain
A man who lost all four of his limbs to a deadly bug has launched a project to help children without hands and arms who are suffering because of the pandemic.
Children can grow out of prosthetics quickly, but many of the clinics where they go for regular fittings are disrupted because of the pandemic.
The issue has struck a chord with Alex Lewis, who has spent the last seven years fundraising and raising awareness by sharing his own journey, through the Alex Lewis Trust to highlight the issues that amputees like himself can face.
ITV Meridian reporter Kerry Swain, has been following Alex's progress for several years. She has been to Stockbridge in Hampshire to find out how he has been spending 2020 - and to find out more about his latest project.
Alex has been working with a young engineering student to produce a revolutionary sleeve inspired by sports clothing and trainers which can be ordered online and sent by post.
The item costs about as much as a smartphone. ‘Project Limitless’ wants to provide a free ‘Koala Mitt’ to every child under nine in the UK who needs one.
Seven years ago Alex was running a pub when he caught a cold and became increasingly ill. Strep A bacteria had overwhelmed his immune system, the infection so severe he was close to death. He developed the flesh-eating disease Necrotising Fasciitis. All four of his limbs had to be amputated. His face was badly disfigured.
Since then Alex has climbed the highest mountain in Ethiopia in a hand cycle, crawling to the summit when the bike could go no further. He's kayaked in Greenland and South Africa and been sky diving. He works with the World Health Organisation, the Red Cross, and many other charities and also helps other amputees around the world.
Alex has already set up a wheelchair factory in Ethiopia. Now he's trying to raise a quarter of a million pounds to provide a free artificial arm to every child under nine in this country who needs one.
Alex became interested in the idea after volunteering as a guinea pig for a bionic arm controlled by muscle vibrations at Imperial College in London. He asked for something more affordable, comfortable and usable.In response, one of the mechanical engineering masters students, Nate Macabuag, designed a flexible mitten. The small team in his new company have had to manufacture the prosthetics in their bedrooms because of the pandemic. He described how it works.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Alex Lewis had to cancel plans to hand cycle across the Gobi Desert in Mongolia during the summer of 2020. He hopes to take on the challenge in 2021 instead.For now, while the coronavirus is disrupting services at prosthetic and limb loss centres, his focus is on raising money for artificial arms that can be posted to children giving them freedom and fun despite the pandemic.