Local students developing prosthetic hand for woman who suffered serious injuries in car accident

WORCESTER, MASS. (WHDH) - A team of local students is lending a hand to a young woman in need after she suffered a serious injury in a car accident and lost some mobility in her hand.

In 2019 Payton Heiberger was involved in a serious car crash in Houston, Texas, where she lost two fingers on her left hand. Without full use of her hand, Payton’s dreams of becoming a plastic surgeon were put on hold.

“Partial hand prosthetics don’t really exist. And the ones that do exist don’t work for Payton’s specific injury, which is why her parents reached out to our lab,” Andy Strauss said.

That’s when Worcester Polytechnic Institute students Mia Buccowich, Brian Fay, and Andy Strauss stepped up to help.

“In Payton’s case she’s missing a finger and part of her thumb, so our goal is to replace that in as useful a way as possible,” Strauss said.

They began developing a prosthetic hand just for and the goal was not to create a cosmetic fix but to give her back some function that was lost during the accident.

“She’ll be able to move the little piece of thumb that she has left. Press on one button to go forward press on the other to go back,” Buccowich said.

The team is now on their fourth prototype of a hand for Payton, and they are close to a final product.

She’s been able to test out the design and use it successfully.

Payton said she is incredibly grateful to the team for their hard work.

“Mia and Andy really showed me that it’s possible to do things even when you’re young and that you can push through a make a difference in society,” she said.

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