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A helping hand

Posted: March 24th, 2017 | Features, News, Top Stories | No Comments

By Jeff Clemetson | Editor

Student makes affordable prosthetics with 3D printer

In the summer of 2014, La Mesa resident Meghana Reddy was on a family trip to India when she stumbled across a problem that needed solving.

“I was teaching at an orphanage where I witnessed two kids missing limbs so I wanted to do something to help them,” said Reddy, now a 17-year-old senior at Francis Parker School. “But I noticed that prosthetics in the area were very expensive — a couple thousand dollars. So when I came back to the U.S. I did more research and I found that 3D printing limbs artificially could significantly reduce the cost of the prosthetics to around 40 to 50 dollars.”

Left: Meghana Reddy holds a prosthetic hand she made on her 3D printer for Limbs with Love, a         nonprofit she started. (Courtesy of Francis Parker School)                                                                   Right: Reddy receives her Prudential Spirit of Community Award from David Mather on March 21. (Photo by Jeff Clemetson)

Reddy worked with local computer and software engineers to create affordable prosthetic limbs on the 3D printer she owns. She also formed the nonprofit Limbs with Love in order to fundraise and better work with other charity groups — a necessity of the logistics required to get the right prosthetics to those in need.

“Internationally, we partnered with other nonprofit organizations and they take the measurements and funnel in the requests because we can’t give all types of prosthetics,” she said. “We’re very limited because of the material of the 3D printer. It’s only usable for upper limbs, but we’re currently working on a lower limb model which we have a patent on.”

In partnership with other nonprofits, Limbs with Love has delivered prosthetics to needy people in India, China, Dominican Republic, Mexico, France and Iran. The organization has also attracted the support of generous donors.

“We’ve been really lucky from the publicity that the organization has received,” Reddy said. “People have gone to the website and donated through PayPal. A lot of big companies have been donating to us, which we’re very thankful for.”

The success of Limbs with Love also brought recognition to Reddy herself. On March 21, at an assembly in front of her fellow students at Francis Parker, Reddy was awarded a Prudential Spirit of Community Award.

“Prudential every year partners with the national association of secondary school principals and sponsors a bunch of awards … to recognize outstanding community service,” said Prudential representative David Mather. “All over the United States, this program takes thousands of applicants and narrows it down to one middle school and one high school student per state.”

As part of the award, Reddy will go to Washington, D.C. in May to join other honorees for four days at a special recognition event and will also receive a $1,000 award. In addition, she will be considered for one of 10 national honors that will be awarded.

And Reddy will not be the only Parker student on the trip. For the first time ever, the middle and high school recipients were from the same school because Parker student Kenan Paula was also awarded for his Food4Homeless program.

“This is a rare honor for two finalists to come from one school in the entire state,” said Kevin Dunn, director of Parker’s community engagement department. “It is jaw-dropping the amount of time both Meghana and Kenan have put into helping the community.”

Although Reddy doesn’t yet know where she will attend college next year, she does know what she would like to study.

“I would like to major in biology and economics and do something related to health care and helping people,” she said.

She would also like to continue her work with Limbs with Love.

“Whenever I see a smile on a child after receiving their prosthetic limb, that is what keeps me going and wanting to do more for others,” Reddy said.

For more information on Limbs with Love, visit limbswithlove.org.

—Reach Jeff Clemetson at jeff@sdcnn.com.

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