Prosthetics and innovative simulation technology help girl with no limbs learn to drive
A Derby teenager who lost all four limbs through meningitis is preparing for an independent life on the road with Dorset Orthopaedic’s simulation technology and prosthetics.
Izzy Weall, 15, was seven when she lost her arms below the elbow and her legs below the knee due to bacterial meningitis. Despite this, Izzy has never let her disability hold her back, becoming a prolific YouTube vlogger, makeup expert and successful trampolinist.
Last year she was invited to the race track by Team BRIT, a motor racing team of disabled drivers with ambitions to become the first all-disabled team to race at the Le Mans 24-hour event. The team showed Izzy its world-leading hand control technology which allows its drivers to compete on a level playing field with able-bodied drivers.
Team Founder Dave Player set up a project with Izzy and her family to get her into a Team BRIT race car and supported her crowdfunding campaign to kickstart the project with the purchase of a bespoke Vesaro Simulator. Learning through a simulator will allow Izzy to train safely before she decides if she would like to try driving in real life.
Working with Team BRIT Chief Engineer Al Locke and Simulator Instructor Matt Allen, Izzy has now taken delivery of the simulator, with a racing seat moulded to her measurements and containing sensors in the moulding to allow her to accelerate and brake by using lateral pressure in her upper limbs.
Meanwhile, to enable Izzy to steer with control, Dorset Orthopaedic’s Moose Baxter, prosthetist at the company’s Midlands clinic, has been drafted in to create special prosthetic arms, which will attach to two balls fixed to the steering wheel. This, and targeted physiotherapy on her shoulders and back, will allow her to steer with confidence despite the vibrations created through the simulator.
Moose said: “We’re delighted to be a part of this project and to help Izzy get on the road. Hopefully by having this to practice with she will feel much more confident driving the real thing and have her licence in no time.”
As well as having racing aspirations, the simulator is expected to give Izzy confidence as she looks forward to 2019, when she will be able to learn to drive an adapted car.
She said: “It’s going to give me confidence and a lot of awareness of what I need to do, reaction times and how it is going to feel, so when I start to learn I will understand a lot already.
“I cannot wait to get on the road and have some independence, to go out to see friends, go shopping – just everything really!
“I’m really grateful to Team BRIT and Dorset Orthopaedic for helping to make this happen.”
Founded in 1989, Dorset Orthopaedic specialises in prosthetic, orthotic, silicone and rehabilitation services.