84-year-old cancer survivor becomes oldest person to receive bionic arm

WÜRZBURG, Germany — An 84-year-old grandmother has become the oldest person in the world to be fitted with a bionic arm after tragically losing her limb to cancer.

When Christa Seubert, from Würzburg, Germany, first noticed discomfort in her arm in early 2022, she initially thought she had carpal tunnel syndrome. Seubert visited a doctor and ultimately underwent two operations, but the problem was far from fixed – with her right hand instead becoming extremely inflamed.

“Then suddenly, overnight, a lump appeared between my thumb and my index finger,” Seubert says in an online video post.

Doctors quickly determined that Christa had cancer and she began chemotherapy in May 2022. However, the aggressive nature of the cancer meant the chemotherapy failed – leaving doctors with no choice but to amputate her arm in order to save her life.

“It was very, very aggressive,” the 84-year-old explains. “There was no choice. This happened on January 3.”

Although grateful for the work of those at Erlangen University Hospital, Christa struggled following the amputation. The grandmother notes that she had always been very active, enjoying hobbies such as gardening, handicrafts, cycling, and walking her dog, Charley, and she found it difficult to reclaim her independence after losing her arm.

“Simple daily activities became challenging, even cutting a load of bread and buttering it on my own,” the cancer survivor explains.

All of that changed when she was fitted with a Hero Arm by Open Bionics. The U.K. firm founded in 2014 specializes in advanced, lightweight, 3D-printed bionic arms. Just an hour after her appointment, she was able to use her new bionic arm to take Charley for a walk and enjoy a hot chocolate.

Christa Seubert from Würzburg, Germany was fitted with a bionic arm after tragically losing her arm below the elbow 11-months ago to cancer.
Christa Seubert from Würzburg, Germany was fitted with a bionic arm after tragically losing her arm below the elbow 11 months ago to cancer. (Credit: SWNS)

“Now, I’ll be able to butter a piece of bread on my own, cut a slice of cheese, cut an apple and hold it without it always slipping away,” Christa says in her video. “I won’t have to ask for anything and everything anymore.”

APT Prothesen chief product officer Mathias Stegemann, who fitted Christa’s new bionic arm, notes he recommended the Hero Arm for her as it is lightweight and easy to use.

“The Hero Arm has big advantages – the ease of use, the very low weight compared to other prosthetic fittings, and the ease of putting it on and taking it off,” Stegemann says, according to a statement from SWNS. “I think this will allow her to enjoy her independence.”

The Hero Arm uses myoelectric sensors that detect underlying muscular contractions generated from specific muscle groups in the arm. These are then amplified and converted to intuitive and proportional bionic hand movements. The company uses technologies such as 3D printing and 3D scanning to ensure each Hero Arm is custom-built and bespoke to the user.

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South West News Service writer Imogen Howse contributed to this report.

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