The Tilly Lockey story is not a normal story. Neither lived a childhood of comfort nor could he easily integrate into the groups of friends at his school. Perhaps because he lost his hands and part of his arms at 15 months of birth. What we do know is that since then it has become an example of improvement. Now armed with robotic arms straight out of a science fiction movie, this 15-year-old British girl has become one of the world’s most popular bionic models . Their mission: to help create the perfect prosthetics.
He was less than a year and a half when he lost his hands to a disease called meningococcal septicemia . It is a serious bacterial infection that affects the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord and can cause multiple organ failure and ischemia in the extremities. Although the doctors gave him little chance of survival, he succeeded.
Now, with more than 70,000 followers on Instagram and 25,000 subscribers on YouTube, Tilly Lockey is not only a beauty vlogger, she also travels the world giving lectures telling her story in order to help other people who have suffered amputations. But what she is most excited about is being a bionic prosthetic model and helping in their development .
This young woman is now walking the streets with her new superhero prosthetics. But it was not always like this. “ The hands that I had before could only open and close and they moved very slowly , which made it practically impossible to use them for everyday things,” he recalls. For a couple of years, he has been using prostheses designed by the British company Open Bionics, with whom he works to design future models.
The prostheses you now use have been clinically tested and are lightweight and affordable. They allow you to perform multiple functions such as grabbing objects, bending your fingers, clenching and unclenching your fists, saluting, flicking your thumbs up, and even bumping your hand with someone. They also allow you to pick up small items, play games on the computer, and even give makeup tutorials online .
“When I was little, I was excited about the idea of prosthetics, but after trying many different prototypes I realized that the technology was very limited . With the hands that they offered me at that moment, I couldn’t even hold a cup. That’s when I knew that I wanted to spend my time helping companies develop something that was comfortable and reliable for those people who want to use their hands and can’t, “he explains. For some years now, Tilly has been the image and ambassador of Open Bionics , where the latest technology prostheses are designed and printed in 3D.
Since the paths of the young woman and this company crossed six years ago, efforts to find the perfect prosthesis have not ceased. Thus, Tilly became the tester of the prototypes, not only because of her experience in the use of bionic arms but also because of the relevance that she took on social networks as an influencer and the constant invitations as a speaker at scientific, academic and entertainment events .
To this day, the young woman is proud to collaborate with them to improve these prostheses, which she uses in her day to day life and which have received the name ‘HeroArm’. “I will never forget the moment when I first went to the Open Bionics lab. They synchronized my arm with my muscles and I was able to open and close my fingers . It was still a prototype at this point, but before this prosthesis I had never had a hand that I felt in total control over, it felt like mine, ”she comments excitedly.
The ‘HeroArm’ bionic arm went on sale on April 25, 2018 in the UK . This myoelectric prosthesis, whose price is around 6,000 euros, has different types of grip, allowing to grip from glasses to smaller objects such as eggs, marbles or dice, which makes it a quite functional tool and not a purely aesthetic device.
Influence on social media to help young people with insecurities
Like any teenager, Tilly is a fan of social media. In her case, she uses her instagram and YouTube account to give advice and a voice to those who feel insecure about her condition. It is not uncommon to find other boys and girls your age asking for advice 24 hours a day. It is enough to enter his ‘stories’ to discover how young people from all over the world ask him questions about overcoming bullying, help to improve self-esteem or motivation in studies .
“There really aren’t enough disabled influencers on social media. Here I try to encourage people to accept their differences. I receive daily messages from people who simply say ‘thank you very much’ or that my page offers them comfort, that they can finally love themselves and have the confidence to flaunt their difference, ”he says.
The young woman has made her difference be a value and this is what she tries to convey in the conferences and talks she gives all over the world. In 2019 he received the ICLF ‘Concord Award’ for Social Impact at the New York Summit . Along with other protagonists such as Leonardo DiCaprio, he regularly participates in Singularity University meetings and has shared the stage with the Dalai Lama talking about how to use technology to improve society.
The prosthetics of the future on the big screen
With this accelerated growth in the field of prosthetics and robotics, we can stop to imagine what everyday life will be like in 5, 10 or 20 years in the future. Intelligent prostheses, with a sense of touch, with additional functions to those of the natural arm such as apps, holograms, internet connection, etc.
Tilly loves to dream about the progress of prosthetics, and she continues to teach how hers work, which now wears them in silver, gray and black, giving it a futuristic look. How he got them is another example of how technology and society seem predisposed to evolve without limits.
Last year, coinciding with the premiere of the film ‘Alita’, by Robert Rodriguez , starring a girl with bionic arms, the film’s producer, 20th Century Fox, together with the Open Bionics company, surprised Tilly by giving her arms similar to those in the film, made with the most advanced prosthetic technology, which allow the grasping and manipulation of objects with great precision.
The same producer of the film, James Cameron, announced to be a faithful follower of Tilly and declared that “prosthetic arms are not cheap enough, especially when they are for children” . Tilly received her new bionic arms to applause as she listened to her benefactors tell her, “You are the real Alita.”
“I think it’s really empowering to see such an amazing main character with a disability in a movie. There aren’t many films like that, but for the director and everyone at 20th Century Fox wanting to bring this design to life, fund it and give it to a real-life amputee like me is one of the best things that ever happened to me. ” , bill.
Tilly is still a child. She has regular exams at school, goes out with her friends and from time to time has to go to rehab, because one of her legs stopped growing due to her illness and now it is difficult for her to bend it. She likes to put on makeup, play the piano, and dress up in the videos she uploads to YouTube. What she has had to live has made her an independent and mature person for her age.
He reflects: “The main problem is that disability affects a minority of people, so there are not many of them with disabilities who want to talk about it, and there are not many healthy people who want to listen because it does not affect them directly. I think the first step in trying to overcome this is to normalize it, be it on social media, on television or on the fashion shows . For my part, I am going to fight so that these arms that I and many other people carry are better and help us to lead the most extraordinary life possible.