|Revolutionary: Stephen Ball shows off his custom built hands with their built-in ice-axes that allow the keen mountaineer to climb again(dailymail.co.uk)|
A man crippled in an horrific mountaineering accident is climbing again thanks to revolutionary new prosthetic hands complete with built-in ice-axes.
Stephen Ball, 54, from Newbiggin, Cumbria, fell 2,000 feet down one of the America's tallest mountains, Mount McKinley, after finding himself trapped in a terrifying snow storm.
Stranded for several hours, Stephen lost part of his left hand, his right fingers and thumb, part of his nose and his right foot to severe frost bite.
His left leg also had to be amputated after it was shattered in 12 places.
After the horrific fall in 1999 the father-of-four thought his climbing days were over until he approached leading prosthetic technician, Phil Myers.
The award-winning technician, who works at the Disablement Services Centre at the Cumberland Infirmary, UK, spent weeks scouring hardware shops in a bid to find the perfect tools for the job.
The pair eventually came up with the ground-breaking "axe hands" which have been specially designed for ice climbing.
Stephen said: 'Even straight after the accident I knew I couldn't give up. I just refused to be defeated.
Ground-breaking: The hands have an adjustable slide mechanism that alters the position of the axes, allowing Stephen 'to climb better than he could have ever imagined''I wanted my life back and I wasn't prepared to pack everything away and say that's the end of things for me.
'I went to Phil to get my new leg and while I was there I asked for his help with some custom-made hands.
'He's very innovative and he won't let obstacles get in his way. He's looking to improve the prosthetics he makes for me all the time.
'These hands are quite specialised pieces of kit, he's invented a slide mechanism so I can adjust the position of the axes.
'I adapted to them really easily and I am now climbing better than I could have ever imagined.'
Before the accident: Stephen climbs Mount Ushba in Russia during 1998, one year before he fell 2,000 feet off Mount McKinley in America, causing his serious injuriesPhil has also built a special "shock absorber" arm for a keen motorcyclist and recently picked up the award for Limbcare Technician of the Year at the annual conference of the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists.
The 45-year-old, who has been making prosthetic limbs for more than 21 years, added: 'The most satisfying part of the job for me is seeing the patients walk out of the building, especially when they came in by wheelchair.
'I just want to make a difference to people's lives and it's people like Stephen who make my job so worthwhile.
'His motivation is very inspiring.'