Clear Lake library 3D printing lab helps 5-year-old get new hand

Parents say daughter was born with left hand not fully formed

VICTORIA, Texas – When the parents of a 5-year-old girl in Victoria set out on quest to find a prosthetic hand for their daughter, little did they know their search would end at a library in Clear Lake.

Katelyn Vincik's parents said their daughter was born with a left hand that was not fully formed. While Katelyn has always known her left hand was a little different than her right, it has not slowed her down.

"She's very determined, she does everything," said Kimberly Vincik. "It's never held her back."

VIDEO: Katelyn's mom talks about her daughter getting her new hand

However, Kimberly Vincik said during nightly prayers, Katelyn would always ask the same questions.

"When is my hand going to be like this? When are the doctors going to fix it," Vincik said.

Katelyn has been on a waiting list for more than a year for a functional prosthetic.

"It has not been FDA-approved. It's basically tied up in approval and legal," said Katelyn's father, Casey.

Her parents said Katelyn was offered a cosmetic prosthetic hand, but the little girl found it too heavy and generally disliked the way it looked.

"Did you get frustrated waiting?" Channel 2 Investigator Robert Arnold asked.

"We did, we did," Kimberly Vincik said.

The Vincik's channeled that frustration into searching for a solution.

"We needed to look at other options on our own, just to do something," said Katelyn's father, Casey Vincik.

Kimberly Vincik said she then began searching the internet for options.

"I looked up every website imaginable," Kimberly Vincik said. "I printed out stuff for each place, I contacted people at each place. I was determined, needless to say."

While scouring the internet, Kimberly Vincik came across a link for the Clear Lake City-County Freeman Branch Library. More specifically, Vincik saw the library has a 3D printing lab.

VIDEO: Katelyn shows off her new hand

"Was there a moment when you two looked at each other and go, 'OK, our child needs a hand. Let's got to the library?'" Arnold said.

"No, not ever in my wildest dreams," Kimberly Vincik said.

Determined to find a hand for Katelyn, the family drove from Victoria to Clear Lake and met with Branch Librarian Jim Johnson and Innovation Lab trainer Patrick Ferrell.

"We let them know we don't know anything about prosthetics. We've never done this before. We just know how to run a 3-D printer," said Ferrell.

The fact the lab never printed a hand didn't stop Ferrell and a team of volunteers from diving into the project.

"As soon as I heard about I jumped at the chance," said Robert Bannon, who volunteered on the project.

Other hobbyists who had been using the lab shared that excitement.

"Absolutely jumped at the chance," Michael Craig said.

However, that excitement was tinged with anxiety. After all, the weight of a 5-year-old girl's hopes were now on their shoulders.

"We definitely didn't want to let Katelyn down," John Colborn said.

Despite the lack of experience in printing a working prosthetic, the Vinciks were certain they found their answer.

"Something said, 'It's going to happen, just be patient,'" Kimberly Vincik said.

The volunteers at the lab used a design provided free on the internet from e-NABLE and Team UnLimbited.

After weeks of programming, printing and a few snags, the day had finally come for Katelyn to receive her hand. Johnson said seeing Katelyn's hand only further reinforced his decision to set up the lab after the library received a generous donation from a patron.

"It's all been worth it," Johnson said.

A family video showed Katelyn's excitement when she pulled her hand out of a gift bag. Ferrell had taken the time to drive the hand to the family's house in Victoria.

VIDEO: Katelyn gets her new hand

"There's no more question of, 'When am I going to get my hand?' We don't have to pray every night," Kimberly Vincik said. "I can't even put words to it."

The Vinciks' joy at seeing their daughter try on her new hand was matched only by the relief their search had finally come to an end.

"It was like a weight was lifted," Casey Vincik said. "Took away that feeling of just kind of being lost."

The Vinciks said Katelyn took to her new hand like she'd had it all her life. Kimberly Vincik said some of Katelyn's first words after receiving the hand were directed to her younger sister, Lacey.

"(She said) 'Lacey, we can hold hands now,'" Vincik said.

The polylatic acid material used to make Katelyn's hand was even dyed in Katelyn's favorite colors: pink and purple. The prosthetic attaches to Katelyn's arm and a pulley system opens and closes the hand when Katelyn bends her arm.

PHOTOS: Katelyn and her new hand

Suddenly, playing with her brother and sister, riding a bike and sitting on a swing became just a little bit easier for Katelyn, but it was her infectious smile that grew just a little bigger that showed the real proof of performance. All it took was determination, a little hard-work and a trip to the local library.

"If I wouldn't have went to that site and found that link, I would have gone nowhere. We'd still be on a waiting list," Kimberly Vincik said.

About the Author:

Award winning investigative journalist who joined KPRC 2 in July 2000. Husband and father of the Master of Disaster and Chaos Gremlin. “I don’t drink coffee to wake up, I wake up to drink coffee.”