CANA — St. Paul School recently showed how classroom technology can be anchored in the real world with a project that created two prosthetic hands, which in some ways rival the bionic arm of Marvel Comic character “Iron Man.” This was done to benefit one of its own, fourth grade student Will Pios.
Until recently, Pios had never been able to clasp a cup, hold a handle bar on a bicycle or catch a ball in the palm of his hand. With the help of St. Paul’s Career and Technical teacher Connie Rudisill and some guidance from a 3-D specialist, Hunter Sheilds of Marion, Virgina, Principal Nancy Wilmoth and Carroll County Public School Assistant Superintendent Mark Burnette were able to see their vision of hands for the fourth grader come to fruition.
Utilizing a 3-D printer, Rudisill made two prosthetic hands that will allow Pios for the first time to do some of the many things the rest of us take for granted every day.
“He’s one of the most amazing young people I have ever met, is the most common remark made about Will Pios,” wrote Wilmoth in the school newsletter. That same comment was reiterated numerous times this summer as he attended the school’s summer session.
According to Pios’ mother, Crystal Vanhoy, he got pneumonia in December 2005. Pios lived in Winston-Salem, N.C. at the time and was admitted to Brenner’s Hospital for treatment. He crashed the night he was admitted, and hospital officials said he had a 20 percent chance of making it through the night. Pios’ blood oxygen levels were in the low 80s, sometimes even lower than that. Physicians predicted that if he lived, he would suffer brain damage because his brain wasn’t getting enough oxygen.
A couple of days later, they found out he had Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) bacteria all through his blood-stream, which threatened to send him into septic shock. All of Pios’ organs started shutting down; his lungs collapsed; he was on dialysis; he became jaundiced because his liver shut down and it appeared he was dying. The infant’s brain still wasn’t getting enough oxygen. He was put on ECMO, a form of life support that oxygenates the blood outside of the body with a machine. The feeling at the time was this was supposed to make him live a bit longer, but he was still likely to die.
Later, his extremities started turning black, due to lack of oxygen. His fingers, feet, ears, and nose were black. Thankfully, his ears and nose healed, but his fingers had to be amputated, along with the toes on his right foot and his entire left foot. Pios was in intensive care for two months, and in the hospital another month.
He had a tracheotomy. Then he had to go to rehab, physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. He got a prosthetic foot and learned how to walk again, with and without the foot on. He learned to feed himself by the summer of 2006 and he would finally eat so his NG tube was taken out. As time went by he learned how to write, type and play video games. He has a total can-do attitude, and is very self-sufficient.
Teachers who had Pios in class for the summer session were amazed at the fine motor skills exhibited with his writing and keyboarding skills, which they described as incredible. Most of all, they said his attitude was nothing short of awesome.
In verbal elaboration on one of his ten-minute daily writings from the language arts portion of the summer session, Will commented, “I died five times, but I’m here, and I’m awesome!”
“Truly a most remarkable child, this young man’s attitude is infectious. There is no way to be around Will and not walk away from him feeling blessed. One- for the obvious physical reasons; Two – for the sheer joy that he brings with his attitude, his work ethic and that beautiful smile,” said teacher Movita Utt.
“Working with not one but three amputations, both hands and one leg, this young man approaches everything with a smile and a positive attitude,” wrote Wilmoth. “St. Paul School has been blessed to have had Will in its midst and thrilled to have been a part of this young man’s receipt of two prosthetic hands, that in time, will come to serve him more and more. Bionic, no. A real-life super hero, you bet.”