A dad whose seven-year-old son thinks he’s a superhero has become the first vicar to receive a bionic limb – after his boy searched ‘hero arm for dad’ online.
Trainee vicar Dan Cant, 42, was branded a “real life hero” by his son Aaron when he saved a man’s life on a canal boat holiday despite only having one arm.
Dan, whose arm was amputated after a horror car crash in 2005, leapt to the rescue of a stranger who fell from a boat last year.
He and other passers-by helped to pull the man from the water and get him on to a passing boat.
His son Aaron, who was six at the time, hailed his father as a “real life hero” and told him: “Imagine what you could do with two arms”.
The youngster prayed for a new arm for Dan and searched for a “hero arm” on Google while playing on his tablet.
He discovered Open Bionics, a company that uses 3D printing and 3D scanning to make advanced, affordable and accessible bionic limbs called Hero Arms.
The firm fitted Dan with a prosthetic arm built custom to his shape and matching his individual requirements and design preferences.
And the first thing he did once he had tested the arm out was rush home to give Aaron a “proper hug” for the first time ever.
Dan said: “A guy fell from the back of a boat, we were able to get this guy from the water to a passing boat. My son had to see some horrific images of this guys injuries.
“When we were processing it later, Aaron said to me: ‘You’re a real life hero, you saved a man’s life’.
“He said ‘if you can do that with one arm, imagine what you could do with two’.
“He Googled hero arms for dads and came across Open Bionics and their hero arms.
“It is a term that gets bandied about a lot, but it is definitely life-changing. I told Open Bionics that before they did it that it would be.
“It has opened up so many different options now that were never available to me before.”
Dan had his right forearm amputated after surviving a head-on collision with a motorcyclist that killed his fiance and the biker in 2005.
Dan’s injuries in the car crash were so bad his parents were told at the time that he would not survive and he medically “died” three times during treatment.
He suffered 65 per cent burns to his body and spent seven months in a specialist unit in hospital for care and rehabilitation.
His legs were so shattered that he still has difficulty walking and he suffers from PTSD 16 years on.
But after learning to walk again, he rebuilt his life and married his wife Leanne, 42, four years ago.
He lives in Colchester, Essex, with Leanne, Aaro, now seven, and his step-children Holly, 18, and Jacob, 14.
Dan, who works as an Ordinand at Christ Church Parish in his hometown, was fitted with his new arm earlier this month.
He added: “We almost have two different lives, my wife does all the active stuff and I do the lego and computer games as best I can.
“It wasn’t just my arm, my legs were so badly shattered I have trouble walking, but now with my arm I am going to be more balanced.
“It has already transformed our family life, we have been throwing a small ball around. My catching skills need some work, but it’s great just to be doing it.”
Dan had been supplied with a prosthetic arm by the NHS after his amputation, but it was heavy, uncomfortable and fixed in position, so had no functional purpose.
Hero Arms cost around £10,000, which Dan said was out of his price range, but he was accepted for funding from The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London.
The arm works by detecting underlying contractions generated from specific muscle groups in his arm.
These are then amplified and converted to intuitive and proportional bionic hand movements, essentially allowing Dan to control his hand.
Dan added: “I had never thought about what I could do with two arms because I was always told it was impossible because my arm was torn off and it wouldn’t work what I had left.
“After it was fitted, I grabbed a small ball and tested it. Then the first thing I did when I got home was give Aaron a big, proper hug.
“I was able to hold him in two arms and pull him in tight for the first time ever.
“He was so emotional. I have such an amazing bond with him.
“He looks up to me as a hero, which is amazing. He’s never known me to have two arms. He feels really validated that his prayers have been answered.
“For me, The Hero Arm is going to give me a great sense of confidence to challenge the stigmas that still surround disability.
“I’m looking forward to also raising awareness in my sector about the barriers the limb difference community still face every day.”
Aaron said: “I am so excited. Daddy can now build super model lego with his super arm. He is my hero.”
Dan’s wife Leanne, a teacher, said the arm enabled Dan to find more confidence.
Samantha Payne MBE, Co-founder of Open Bionics said: “We’re thrilled to support Daniel on his bionic journey.
“It can be frustrating as an amputee when your job requires you to hold items in two hands at the same time and we hope Daniel’s Hero Arm makes the practice into priesthood smoother.
“We helped Daniel find funding for his new bionic arm and we’re grateful to The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London for their support.”