May 15, 2021

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Ashtabula County man receives bionic arm with help from donors, medical technology company

ASHTABULA, Ohio (WJW) — An Ashtabula County man says he is grateful to have a new bionic arm, and says it would not have been possible to purchase the high tech limb, if not for the generosity of donors and a medical technology company. 

27-year-old Richard Slusher says his parents decided that a challenge they faced when Richard was born, would not keep him from living a full life.

“I was born without my right arm below the elbow, which is what’s called a congenital amputation,” he said. “If ever there was something that I couldn’t do or needed help with, they would always accommodate and encourage me to find a way to do it that best accommodated myself,” he said.

Over the years, the Shriners Hospital for Children outfitted Richard with a series of prosthetic arms, but when he turned 18, they were no longer provided free of charge.

He told Fox 8, “If you want to get a new prosthetic or a different kind of prosthetic, you either have to have a lot of money, or have really good insurance.”

In 2020, Richard learned about a bionic arm, that was custom built by a British company, Open Bionics. The so-called Hero Arm is equipped with sensors that would be able to read his muscle contractions.

“I was immediately drawn to its futuristic look and it’s function, it has six different gripping patterns so the amount of things I would be able to do was vastly improved,” he said.

The cost of the Hero Arm was $20,000, and when his insurance company would not help, Open Bionics recommended he start a GoFundMe page.

Within a month, he raised $11,000.  “I don’t really like to ask for help, I’ve always tried to like do things my own way, but I’m learning to now ask for help and now we see what happens when you do ask for help,” he said.

After a company called Presque Isle Medical Technologies learned that Richard was $9000 short of his goal, the company offered to cover the difference if Richard would allow the firm to measure him for his new bionic arm.

“You know when you hear something like that, you think it’s too good to be true obviously. At first I was speechless and then extremely grateful.”

Richard Slusher says the performance capabilities of his new Hero Arm have given him a new level of independence and the new look, which includes a variety of bold colors, fits his personality.

Richard, who is a tutor at Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus and a counselor at a camp for amputees, says he is using the story of his new right arm to inspire children facing their own challenges.

“If I can shine a light on limb difference and how I live my life adaptively, then I feel like I’m doing a very positive thing,” he said.