Emma Lavelle calls them her “magic arms.” And it’s no wonder, given that the 3D-printed device she wears allows her to play, draw and hug her mom – things she could never do before.
The towheaded toddler with the sparkling smile was born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, a rare neuromuscular condition that made it almost impossible for her to lift or move her arms.
But then Emma’s mother, Megan Lavelle, of Wilmington, Del., went to a conference for families like hers that would change their lives.
The game changer? The Wilmington Robotic EXoskeleton (WREX), an assistive device made of hinged metal and plastic bars and resistance bands, that is manufactured by a 3D printer.
“When she was born, her legs were up by her ears and her shoulders were internally rotated,” Megan Lavelle says in a video made by the 3D company Stratasys when Emma was 2. “It was so fun for us to go up there and see her play.”
About 75 children like Emma, now 6, are currently using it, according to Tariq Rahman, director for orthopedic research and development at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, where Emma’s device was made.
“To see these children who can’t use their arms and then within a few hours this device lets them is just amazing,” Rahman tells PEOPLE. “It makes not only a massive impact on the child but the family as well. It’s extraordinary.”
See for yourself: