Isabelle Sievers' myoelectric arm prosthesis not only helps her with everyday things like cycling and vegetable cutting, but also gives her quality of life and self-confidence. The technological developments inspire her – as do people who share this joy with her and approach her openly. In this interview, she tells us how important exchange is for her, what suggestions she has for improving her prosthesis, and how she rolls.
Name: Isabelle Sievers Age: 21 City: Braunschweig, Germany Occupation: I will be an intern starting in September. I will participate in the Niedersachsen-Technikum, where I will do a paid internship in a technical company for one semester. This will give me an insight into everyday working life (with a prosthesis) and will help me decide which specific course of study I can best imagine. Impairment: Right upper arm amputation and loss of function and sensibility of the left hand due to ulnar nerve and tendon damage.
Isabelle Sievers: For me, a good day always starts when I get up in the morning and put on my prosthetic arm so that I can start my day confidently with its support. And with a big cup of coffee. In the meantime, I have learned to appreciate the little things much more and on a good day there is at least one situation that has put a smile on my face.
Which auxiliary means or daily living aids are indispensable for you?
Isabelle Sievers: For me, my myoelectric arm prosthesis is definitely indispensable. With only one arm, it is very time-consuming and often frustrating to manage everyday life. Be it cutting vegetables, slicing bread rolls, opening bottles, opening packages... A "helping hand" is often indispensable. In addition, I can carry twice as many things and transport them from A to B, and it also gives me more security and stability when riding a bicycle. Since my left hand is also severely limited in its function and mobility, especially in its fine motor skills, my prosthetic hand is an immense help. The VincentEvolution3 from Vincent Systems has 14 different grips, so that all the important functions of the hand are restored. Functions such as the tweezer grip, for example, which I can no longer manage with my left hand. Basically, I can say that my prosthetic arm gives me a lot of quality of life and self-confidence.
What would you like to see from society and your fellow people in dealing with people with disabilities?
Isabelle Sievers: I would like to see more openness and less fear of contact. So far, very few people have asked me about the prosthesis in public; most just look. I have already received feedback that many people simply don't dare. I think that's a shame, because I'm a person like everyone else and if I don't want to talk about the reasons for my amputation, I can communicate that. The prosthesis, however, is far too sensitive a topic in my opinion. I, at least, think it is incredibly cool and I also find it exciting to see what is possible these days. I would like to share this enthusiasm with other interested parties and am always open to showing what my prosthesis can do.
Which assistive device would urgently need to be invented and/or improved?
Isabelle Sievers: I would love it if there were a completely waterproof (myoelectric) upper arm prosthesis. That way, especially in the summer, I wouldn't have to worry about my prosthesis getting damaged due to sudden heavy rain, and I would be more independent when riding my bike because I wouldn't have to contemplate whether or not it might rain later.
Isabelle Sievers has experienced a lot in the last three years and had to fight her way through. Today she lives alone, has left her eating disorder behind her and can truly say that she is happy.
What has been your biggest challenge so far that you have mastered – and what has helped you?
Isabelle Sievers: I had anorexia for a long time, which led me to a suicide attempt where I climbed a smaller power pole and touched the power line. As a result, my disabilities came about. My biggest challenge has been the path I have taken since then: From suddenly severely disabled, deeply trapped in the eating disorder, physically unable to wear a prosthesis, to another hospital stay, intensive confrontation with my psychological problems, coming to terms with what I had experienced, physical stabilization, to I have left the eating disorder behind, live independently in my own apartment, am truly happy, and have a prosthesis that I can easily use and wear throughout the day and that gives me a whole lot of quality of life. And this development in only three years. I was helped first of all by the doctors, who did everything humanly possible and successfully saved my life. But of course also my family, who never left my side, and a few true friends. In addition, my stamina and strong will helped me – I never gave up on myself but kept fighting forward until I achieved the almost impossible.
What can the assistive technology industry learn from the Corona pandemic to make life easier and/or better for people with disabilities in the future?
Isabelle Sievers: I think digitization is the key word here. First of all, I think it would be advantageous if all the assistive technology sectors were represented on social media, so that the relevant offers are accessible to a broader audience and thus reach the patient sooner. For example, I became aware of the REHACARE trade fair via Instagram. But I would also find online offers important, at least that the option for this exists. For some people with disabilities, traveling to the fair involves a lot of effort, but it is still important to pick up patients and provide them with the support they need. I was thinking of online counseling sessions, for example. But also an online platform for people with disabilities so that like-minded people can talk to each other more easily. The exchange among each other is so important.
If nothing was impossible: Who would you like to meet one day and why?
Isabelle Sievers: I would love to meet my favorite band Versengold away from concerts. Just to talk to them, as they have composed some very moving songs that have helped me through many difficult times.
What was your best REHACARE experience?
Isabelle Sievers: Unfortunately, I have never been to the REHACARE trade fair. Since I've only been an amputee since 2019 and then the pandemic intervened, I haven't had the opportunity to visit yet. But maybe I'll stop by this year.
What I wanted to say ...
Isabelle Sievers: Every person is unique, valuable and beautiful, just as they are. No matter whether one wears a prosthesis, orthosis or other aid, no matter whether one is marked by scars or sits in a wheelchair. True beauty comes from within and cannot be reduced to outward appearances. Only you know your inner strength and I am firmly convinced that you can do anything if you only believe in yourself and do not let yourself be influenced by society's expectations.