Teenager with bionic arms delights viewers with piano performance

Teenager who lost both hands to meningitis ditches her high-tech bionic arms to play the piano with a homemade hand made from a rake and a toilet roll tube that allows her to play chords

  • Tilly Lockey was diagnosed with meningitis which destroyed both her arms
  • County Durham teenager sports HeroArms – technically advanced prosthetic 
  • She showcased her musical skills when appearing on ITV’s This Morning today 

A teenager with bionic arms has left viewers in awe after playing the piano on This Morning – despite being told she’d never be able to perform.

Tilly Lockey, 14, from Consett, County Durham, who lost both her hands after being diagnosed with meningitis when she was 15-months-old, appeared on the ITV programme today alongside her mother Sarah Lockey.

She showcased her musical skills, explaining how she first learned to play the piano at eight-years-old, but started seriously performing again in lockdown.

The teenager also revealed that she uses a homemade arm when playing, which had been made by a piano teacher out of a garden rake and an empty toilet roll to help her play chords.  

A teenager (pictured) with bionic arms has left viewers in awe after playing the piano on This Morning – despite being told she’d never be able to perform

 Tilly Lockey, from Consett, County Durham, who lost both her arms after being diagnosed with meningitis when she was just 15-months-old (pictured), appeared on the ITV programme today alongside her mother Sarah Lockey

The teenager showcased her musical skills for impressed viewers (above), explaining how she first learned to play the piano at eight-years-old but started seriously performing again in lockdown

She said: ‘I actually started playing the piano when I was around eight-years-old and I remember when we were really, really little and my mum will tell you, that a lot of doctors said that I would never be able to run, that I’d never be able to walk – just a list of things that I’d never be able to do.

‘But there was one time that an orthopedic doctor came in and she said “Well, you know she’ll never be able to play the piano” and my mum, being the person she is, said, “She will play the piano if she would like to”.’

The teenager added: ‘So they bought a piano and it’s always kind of been looking at me. It’s always been in our kitchen, but I only got into it at about seven and eight-years-old and I learnt how to play Beauty and The Beast’s Tale as Old as Time and that got picked up by the newspaper.

‘I fell out of love with it but I think now in lockdown, I’ve got a lot more time on my hands and I just thought why not try and play a little bit more.’ 

The teenager also revealed how she played the piano with a homemade arm, dubbed the rake. 

The teenager (pictured with her mother) also revealed that she uses a homemade arm when playing which had been made by a piano teacher out of a garden rake and an empty toilet roll to help her play chords

It helps the teenager play chords and was made with a toilet roll tube and part of a garden rake – with Tilly (pictured) also using one of her bionic arms to perform a rendition of Lady Gaga’s Always Remember Us This Way for viewers

‘This was DIY made for me by a piano teacher,’ she explained. ‘He saw me in the newspaper… and he just knew that he wanted me to play the piano and teach me so he made this.’

It helps the teenager play chords and was made with a toilet roll tube and part of a garden rake – with Tilly also using one of her bionic arms to perform a rendition of Lady Gaga’s Always Remember Us This Way for viewers.

Social media users were moved by the inspirational story, with one writing: ‘How amazing is Tilly.’

Another said: ‘How inspirational is this woman on This Morning! Never let a disability define you and hold you back from following your dreams.’

A third Twitter user added: ‘Still better than me and I have two good hands #ThisMorning.’

Reaction: Social media users were moved by the inspirational story, with one writing: ‘How amazing is tilly.’

WHAT IS MENINGITIS?

Meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that surround and protect the brain and spinal cord.

Anyone can be affected but at-risk people include those aged under five, 15-to-24 and over 45.

People exposed to passive smoking or with suppressed immune systems, such as patients undergoing chemotherapy, are also more at risk.

The most common forms of meningitis are bacterial and viral.

Symptoms for both include:

  • Pale, blotchy skin with a rash that does not fade when compressed with a glass
  • Stiff neck
  • Dislike of bright lights  
  • Fever, and cold hands and feet
  • Vomiting
  • Drowsiness 
  • Severe headache 

Headache is one of the main symptoms

Bacterial meningitis 

Bacterial meningitis requires urgent treatment at hospital with antibiotics.  

Some 10 per cent of bacterial cases are fatal.

Of those who survive, one in three suffer complications, including brain damage and hearing loss. 

Limb amputation is a potential side effect if septicaemia (blood poisoning) occurs.

Vaccines are available against certain strains of bacteria that cause meningitis, such as tuberculosis.

Viral meningitis 

Viral is rarely life-threatening but can cause long-lasting effects, such as headaches, fatigue and memory problems. 

Thousands of people suffer from viral meningitis every year in the UK. 

Treatment focuses on hydration, painkillers and rest.

Although ineffective, antibiotics may be given when patients arrive at hospital just in case they are suffering from the bacterial form of the disease. 

Source: Meningitis Now 

Tilly sports HeroArms – technically advanced prosthetics with hands and wrists that move and grip like the real thing.

Astonishingly, the user simply has to think about a desired movement and the HeroArm’s fingers spring into life.

Highly specialised sensors in the device pick up subtle muscular contractions in the upper arm, which get translated into electrical messages that power the robotic limb.

They are also lighter as well as more agile than any that have come before – and unlike the limbs once offered to amputees which were designed to look human and ‘hide’ the fact a limb was missing, these new versions are proudly and defiantly machine-like. 

Tilly was just 15 months old (pictured) when mother Sarah, a charity worker, heard her whimpering in her sleep. ‘I thought she was teething so I gave her some Calpol,’ Sarah says. ‘But the next morning she was pale and lethargic so I got an emergency appointment at the GP’

Tilly was just 15 months old when mother Sarah, a charity worker, heard her whimpering in her sleep. 

‘I thought she was teething so I gave her some Calpol,’ Sarah previously recalled. ‘But the next morning she was pale and lethargic so I got an emergency appointment at the GP.’

The doctor diagnosed an ear infection and sent them home, but later the same day, Sarah noticed the characteristic red spotty rash that signals possible meningitis.

As the rash didn’t disappear when a glass tumbler was rolled over it – the telltale sign of something sinister – she called an ambulance. 

Despite penicillin working to kill some of the infection, it had triggered blood poisoning sepsis which spread to her limbs, destroying them.

Sarah recalls: ‘Doctors said she would recover, but the toxins had destroyed her hands and the tips of her toes, which were black and decaying. 

‘Tilly needed both hands amputated and would lose part of all her toes on one foot. We were distraught but determined to hold it together for our little girl.’ 

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