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Double Hand Amputee Learns to Use Prosthetic Hands with Help from Occupational Therapist

May 31, 2013

In December 2010, Sam Matagi's life changed forever when he lost both his hands in an electrical accident while working as a power lineman in Colorado. In a split second, nearly 15,000 volts of electricity surged through his body, leaving his hands irreversibly damaged.

After a brief stay in the Colorado hospital where his arms were amputated, Sam was transferred to the University of Utah Health's Burn Center for further evaluation. Then, a few days later, University of Utah Health's Rehabilitation Center became his home away from home for almost an entire month while he worked to regain his strength and independence.

But, the one thing Sam never lost was his sense of self—his passion for life, his desire to serve others, and of course, his smile and lovable sense of humor. Just a few years after his accident, Sam, a.k.a. "The No-handed Bandit," is taking on the internet spotlight in hopes of helping others who may find themselves in a situation similar to his

During his stay U of U Health's Rehab Center, Sam says it was difficult to find information online that would help him learn how to use his new prosthetic hands, a challenge definitely easier said than done. But, as he started mastering new skills with help from, Michelle Dincceco, his dedicated occupational therapist, Sam had an idea. "It was actually in a session with Michelle that I came up with the idea to make videos," he says. "She was incredibly supportive."

Sam used the knowledge he gained as a broadcast journalism graduate to create a YouTube channel staring his alter ego, The No-handed Bandit. He wanted to use his talent for humor and entertainment as a means to help other amputees learn how to use their prosthetics, and he had the full support of his care team to do it.

I remember being in that situation and not having anywhere to go for information," Sam says. "I really just wanted to help anyone and everyone with an amputation of the hands, and I am really grateful for the opportunity to do that."

The No-handed Bandit has posted videos of himself using his prosthetic hands—or hooks, as he affectionately calls them—to open a jar, shave, brush his teeth, and play basketball. His YouTube channel has even started to garner a following, with nearly 30,000 video views and 154 subscribers.

Sam credits his recovery to the dedicated professionals at the U of U Health's Burn Center and Rehabilitation Center, especially Michelle for her personal commitment to Sam's success. Although his hospital days are behind him, Sam says he still occasionally visits members of his care team and attends burn group therapy.

"It helps me remember how far I've come," he says. "The Burn Camp program was awesome this year, too. I definitely came back from that with more confidence."