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Meet the TASKA Champions

Looking good, feeling confident, and living full throttle.
Adrian Ware

“To be honest, it’s the coolest looking hand!“ - Adrian Ware, gearhead, motorbike enthusiast, TASKA Champion.

Like a lot of Aussies his age, Adrian Ware likes to get amongst it. “What matters most right now is being fully functional and living a fulfilling life. My lifestyle consists of keeping fit and days out with my family, camping and embarking on motorbike adventures.”

Adrian is a lover of technology. If it has gears and helps you get places faster, then he’s all in. “I like working on my motorbike, but until now, I've been using my passive prosthetic to do this. While it has assisted me in completing some maintenance tasks, it lacked the dexterity and ability to grip tools safely. Working on my bike with the TASKA Hand has improved my ability to do these tasks and given me the confidence to attempt more tasks.”

“The hand allows me to live life the way I want to, by not having my amputation be the limiting factor.”

Adrian has found his new hand is a great way to meet and chat with people. “I often get stopped and asked how the hand works. It has allowed me to engage with people with more confidence. Also, young kids like the hand. When I’ve walked past a family in the shops, I heard a kid turn to his mother in the usual QUIET VOICE! kids do and say: “‘Mum, look at that man's stormtrooper hand,’ I got a buzz out of that.”

Adrian’s primary reason for choosing TASKA was the robustness of the hand. “When I first picked up the hand, I could feel the build quality; it didn't feel flimsy or weak. The other reason was the functionality of the hand. The electrically opposable thumb and the grip button on the hand made it easier to change between grips.”

“I consider limb loss to be somewhat of a journey…”

As a result of injuries sustained in an electrical accident in 1999, Adrian was fitted with a myoelectric hand. As he wanted to be a proficient user of his prosthetic, Adrian asked his OT not to show him one-handed techniques. “This hand did assist with daily tasks where gross motor movements were required, but the hand was more about grip strength and difficult to use when fine motor skills were required.”

Over the following decade, Adrian followed the advancements of prosthetic hands, and in 2009, he invested in a Bluetooth connected hand. “I was the first person in Australia to receive this (type of) hand.”

Being an avid early adopter, Adrian was able to assist developers with feedback on faults and issues. “While the (previous) hand was able to assist with some of my daily tasks, I never felt 100% confident.”

Adrian told us that, for him, the limb loss journey has come in various stages. “Grieving limb loss, trying to feel normal again, adapting and accepting. When you reach this acceptance stage, you shift your focus from how your prosthetic looks to others to how my prosthetic can express my individuality.”

In 2020, Adrian was fitted with a TASKA Hand. “My previous prosthetic always felt flimsy to the point that I would take it off. So, in the end, I would only really use it when I went out.

Now, each day, I attempt new tasks that I would not have in the past like carry a couple of extra shopping bags from the car instead of just one light bag. Using the hand to do some gardening and bike maintenance.”

Many of Adrian’s interests, like working on his bike, need a great deal of fine motor work and the use of multiple grips. “Some tasks require you to have the ability to switch between grips like a normal hand. So having access to buttons to cycle through your favourite grips mid-task and not relying on the app would have to be my most liked feature.”

Then, there are the everyday activities. “Being able to use the hand in and around water greatly assists with cleaning hands and washing up duties. Then there’s switching between holding a cup and holding a knife using the buttons on the hand.”

As mentioned earlier, Adrian likes to get out and about and be amongst it. This is a man who, in 2017, circumnavigated Australia on a motorbike. Adrian is a lover of the great outdoors and is no stranger to a bit of roughhousing with his canine companions. “I was out walking my dogs to a nearby park so they could have a runaround. One of my dogs caught me off guard and knocked me over, and I fell, landing prosthetic first. I thought for sure the hand was going to be damaged and needed repair. With my previous hand, the finger would have jammed and not functioned and would require repair.”

“After picking myself up and checking the hand, there was not a scratch on it apart from a bit of dirt and grass and a bruised ego; everything functioned as normal.”

Finally, does Adrian have any tips for other TASKA users? “Enabling the toggle feature when the EMG grips are set can enable you to toggle between EMG grips and the home grip without having to use the buttons.”

And, how would he sum up his relationship with his new hand?

“I love technology and feel that the way the TASKA Hand looks and performs helps express my individuality.”

Always consult the Appropriate Use Guide before operating motor vehicles.

Restoration of a passion
Bryden Zaloum

It took Bryden Zaloum a while to find the perfect prosthetic hand. In fact, achieving the right balance between comfort and functionality eluded him for more than three decades – until he discovered the TASKA Hand.

For the first 30-odd years after his amputation, Bryden used a body powered prosthetic ‘claw’, starting out with a double cross-over harness before moving to a silicone liner which suctioned to his residual limb. While the claw was strong and simple to use, it placed huge strain on his back, shoulders and neck, eventually becoming completely untenable.

He then moved to a rudimentary myoelectric limb, which alleviated his comfort issues, but came with its own set of problems. This stiff, ill-fitting hand wasn’t waterproof, and featured a software interface which was only supported on Apple devices. As an Android user, this meant he had to carry an extra device with him if he wanted to adjust settings and grips when not at home.

Totally frustrated, he eventually stopped wearing prosthetics altogether. Then he was introduced to the TASKA Hand.

For Bryden, the difference was night and day. "There’s simply no other myoelectric hand on the market that can do what it does", he says. "It’s waterproof and flexible, it’s stronger, and it’s backed by user-friendly software and support from a company that wants to keep making it better."

The flexibility of the fingers on the TASKA Hand has been hugely beneficial for Bryden, who relishes his new-found ability to complete everyday tasks like getting dressed, using utensils, mowing the lawns, and shaking hands.

It’s also had a huge impact on his confidence and his social interactions. "In the past, I’ve had people react with everything from pity and caution to sheer embarrassment and even a little fear. But, with the TASKA Hand, I’ve only experienced wonder, excitement and interest – people no longer hesitate to shake hands or ask questions. I now feel completely comfortable going out, and am no longer conscious of the fact I’m missing a hand."

Today, Bryden is free from the debilitating back, shoulder and neck pain which haunted him for so long, and is busy making the most of the freedom and independence he now enjoys with the TASKA Hand – he’s even restoring a classic car!

A real trail blazer
Jodie O’Connell Ponkos

Jodie O’Connell Ponkos isn’t the kind of person to let a thing like losing a hand hold her back. In fact, one of the biggest challenges she’s faced has been finding a prosthetic which could handle her active lifestyle!

Working with horses is physically demanding work. From pushing wheelbarrows, mucking out stalls and using various tools to the rigours of riding, there are any number of daily activities which could potentially damage a prosthetic. Indeed, Jodie had become so sick of breaking hands that she gave up wearing them altogether – for two-and-a-half decades!

That was until she attended the MEX conference in Canada, where she was introduced to the TASKA Hand. Since then, she hasn’t looked back, embracing the TASKA Hand’s advanced functionality and revelling in its incredible durability.

“Because the TASKA Hand is so durable, I have a much greater sense of security”, she says. “I worry less, and am much more confident trying new things, without the fear of damaging my hand.”

“The versatility is amazing too. I can do so much more now – from work in the barn to hiking, camping and (of course!) riding! I can move wheelbarrows, use a leaf blower, and even do all those tricky little tasks you never think about, like opening a bag of chips”.

The other major benefit of the TASKA Hand for Jodie, who spends a lot of time teaching people with disabilities to ride, is the appearance. “I work with people who face challenges around cognitive function, and a prosthetic hand has the potential to produce either a very positive, or a very negative response from them”, she says.

“But they love it! They call it the ‘Robot Hand’, and are constantly asking me questions about how it works. I’m always being told it looks ‘cool’, and even had one person say ‘how do I get one of those?’!”

An added bonus has been the waterproof nature of the TASKA Hand, an attribute which was hugely beneficial during the global COVID-19 outbreak. “Being able to wash my hands during the pandemic made such a difference”, says Jodie, who continues to attack life at a full gallop!

Melanie Waldman - Lights, TASKA, action!
Melanie Waldman

“I’ve been using my TASKA to find my way back to the things I love the most.” - Melanie Rivera Waldman, actor, yoga teacher, differently limbed advocate, TASKA Champion.

When we spoke with Melanie about her TASKA Hand experiences, she’d been learning to use a rowing machine.

“I used to row, and I have a new trainer, so we've been using straps to row on a machine as part of my training.”

At her core, Melanie is someone who finds a way. She is on a journey of adaptation and connection with her authentic self.

“I was in a production of Chicago, and I didn’t wear my arm for that. I played the badass amputee... I realised this is me; I’m the same person… and (long story short) now I work in disability advocacy for film and television.”

Involved in theatre since age eight, Melanie started back into the audition circuit with a cosmetic hand.

“I realised it was worthless. It may have looked like a real hand, but acting isn’t just about looking the part; it’s about finding your truth… I needed two functioning hands.”

Melanie opted for a standard myoelectric hand but found it was only helpful for auditions and not day-to-day life.

“I learned to use the myoelectric in 2016. Over the next three years, I used that, and I saw new tech kept coming. I saw multi-articulating devices, and I tried out a couple. Then, I came across a local business - they were distributing the TASKA - the guy there, Kevin, was like, ‘There’s no hand like this! You can put it in water!’”

Being a very active person, Melanie had been looking for a robust hand, one that could take a beating.

“I love the durability of the TASKA. I no longer have to wait for the hand to come back from getting fixed - I love it - I do… it’s a smarter device. If I’m holding something, I almost feel the weight. You can feel the resistance - it blows my mind - it’s as if it has a brain.”

Diagnosed with Lupus SLE in 2013, an autoimmune condition that affects skin, heart, kidney and lungs, Melanie was admitted to hospital after two years of non-stop doctor’s appointments.

“I had two blood clots in my right wrist, cutting off circulation. I was in the hospital for 30 days, during which time I had ten ops and was in three ICUs.”

The complications of this connective tissue disorder had arisen due to Melanie being right hand dominant.

“Now, I’m aware of overusing my left hand. Long-distance driving, going to auditions, for example. So my TASKA is my literal right-hand man and is taking the weight.”

When not getting ready for the camera or waiting to step into the spotlight, Melanie volunteers for the Amputee Coalition of America, teaching them accessible yoga.

“I’m finding a new way to express my authenticity. For yoga and acting, I can’t be in these fields without being myself - being unapologetically me - my TASKA gives me self-confidence, it’s a conversation starter… and the best thing is to be back in my community.”

Bionic Dad
Rik Walker

When software tester Rik Walker flew from his motorcycle and crashed shoulder-first into a lamppost, his right hand (and much of the arm) was left paralysed. He lived like that for the better part of 15 years before making what was, in his own words, the ‘best decision of his life’ when he chose to have the hand amputated.

When Rik was first fitted with his TASKA Hand there were, understandably, some significant adjustments to make – after all, he had spent a decade-and-a-half using one arm. But, in the space of just two to three weeks, the movements had become intuitive and his life had changed dramatically!

"I’d always been very conscious of my arm", says Rik, "and would get very anxious when I had to interact with other people. But not anymore. Now, I find people no longer feel awkward about addressing my disability, and instead are simply fascinated by the technology."

The impact of the TASKA Hand has been profound, touching every aspect of Rik’s life. "I even feel like I’m a better father", he says. "Nowadays, I’m just like all the other dads…maybe even a little bit cooler, given I’m the only one with a bionic arm!"

In terms of everyday life, things couldn’t feel more normal. "To be honest, I don’t even think about all those little day-to-day tasks any more – I just do them. I help around the house, cook dinner for the family, and even played a key role in the renovation of our home. The introduction of the TASKA Hand into my life has been a truly empowering experience!"

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