Gifting a Hand: Texas Teenager’s Mission to Help Amputees in India

Rishi Dallas 2
Rishi Talati at work with his computers modifying hands to fit patients’ measurements.

A 17-year-old from Dallas, Texas, is seeking to help India’s amputee population in a way not many of his age would think of – providing physically-challenged people with 3-D printed prosthetic hands to help them regain their lives.

Since starting a nonprofit, Gift a Hand Foundation, in 2016, Rishi Talati, a 12th grader has provided over a dozen people in India, most of them children, with 3D Printed hands made at his home and sent to the beneficiaries free of any charge. Many more, over 100 he says, are in the making for sending to patients in India. “It’s a kind of passion for me. I love to do this so I can help people in my small way,” Rishi says.

For the starters, 3D printers’ use in prosthetic limb manufacturing offers a viable solution for millions of people worldwide who have to live with loss of limbs due to accident, or illness such as diabetes that at times necessitates amputation, especially of the lower limbs. Prosthetic limbs with the help of 3D printers can be created easily, and are inexpensive and far less time consuming compared to traditional prosthetics made with wood or metal.

India has a large population of amputees and polio-afflicted persons, according to the National Sample Survey Organization survey done some years ago. Rishi cited a report published by the Ceter for Biomedical Engineering in IIT Delhi that said approximately half a million people in India are amputees. Since that report is more than two decade old, he presumes that the number has gone up much more.

Given the magnitude of the problem in India, Rishi admits it is beyond the ability of an 11th grader to be able to bring change that will touch the lives of millions of people. But he is optimistic he will continue with his passion that will touch the lives of some people.

He gave the example of Prince, a 6-year-old from Ahmadabad, who was born without a hand and a leg. When Rishi’s organization provided him with the printed prosthetic hand, and later on with a prosthetic leg with the help of another NGO in India, he regained his life. “He now plays cricket, which he always wanted to play as a child, and even rides a bicycle. Helping him was truly one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me,” Rishi said.

“I may not been able thousands of people at this stage of my life, but even I can help a few and empower them, I will consider that to be a blessings for myself,” he said in an interview.

A printed prosthetic hand from his 3D printer at home does not cost him more than $20. He prints the hand after downloading hand files for a prosthetic hand from website which is an open source. Once the files that come with standard measurements are downloaded, he has to modify them to the desired measurements of the patients in India. The patients’ measurements are sent to him by his grandfather, Dr. Suresh Soni, an ENT surgeon in Ahmadabad.

Printing a hand does not take more than 20 hours or so and the cost of making a printed prosthetic hand is one 20th of manufacturing a conventional prosthetic hand, but in terms of functionality and efficacy, there is hardly any difference between the two.

While experts says 3D printing for prosthetic limbs holds a lot of promise, and is done in the U.S., in the developing countries like India they are yet to take off in a major way, partly because of cost. “I personally with new technology and new material, making printed limbs will eventually become even cheaper than it is now, and hopefully physically challenged people everywhere will be able to regain their lives,” Rishi said.

Rishi’s love affair with 3D printing started a few years ago at the 3D Printing Club of his former school Texas Academy of Arts and Science. While he was at the club, its director told him that one should work with 3D printing and explore ways how to help people with technology. Those words of his teacher, his own research as to what could be done with the technology coupled with a lot of inspiration from his mother Preeti Talati, led to the founding of the Gift a Hand Foundation.

“Although my teachers were certainty supportive, my mother, who did not know anything about 3Dprinting, helped me a lot. In fact, she and others have guided me along this journey and deserve all the credit for any success we have today,” he said.

Rishi said her mother always says that she wants to help at least 1,000 in a substantial way people in her lifetime. “My goal for her and for our organization is to help at least 500 amputees in India within a year or so and ship hands for them. And work for that is already going on.”