Jacob Kruger has a calm energy. His voice is even; he’s comfortable talking over the phone for our interview. He’s a musician, a commercial truck driver, and a volunteer Lieutenant firefighter.
At 22 years old, Jacob still has a lifetime ahead of him. But just under a year ago, a motorcycle accident forced him to approach life a bit differently.
Jacob’s accident resulted in doctors amputating part of his right index finger. It was physically and emotionally challenging for Jacob—especially when it came to his passion—playing the piano.
After a few months of hand rehabilitation, Jacob was feeling better and more confident about his new adaptations. But, he says, he had reservations about playing music again. So, when it came time to approach the piano, his emotions ran high.
“I sat down to try and play some songs, and in that moment, I knew 10 years of hard work was thrown out the window,” he recalls. “It was heartbreaking,”
He found help and hope by talking about his struggles with family, friends, and band mates. “They told me, ‘It’s not the end of the world, there’s got to be a way around.’”
Jacob started searching for alternatives. “I literally just googled ‘prosthetic fingers’ and started looking through pictures,” he says. He saw the X Finger, homemade prosthetic devices, and Naked Prosthetics (NP).
“I really liked the style and design of NP,” he says. “So, I talked to my hand therapist. She was aware of the products, and immediately started the process and consultations.”
NP designed and manufactured a custom PIPDriver for Jacob. He says the hardest part of waiting for the device was that he wasn’t sure if it would help him play. The first thing he did when he received his PIPDriver was go home and sit in front of the piano. Much to his delight, his device helped him reach the right keys.
“It was really uplifting,” he says, relief still in his voice. “It came more naturally than I expected—I didn’t have to relearn; the finger was just there. I play 98 percent as well as I did before.”
His first attempt? “Music Box Dancer” by Frank Mills. “It’s one of my favorite pieces to play,” he says. “It’s a song my father introduced me to years ago.”
Now, he’s back to playing with the band, and he’s accustomed to the public’s reaction to his prosthetic finger. “Everyone I talk to says it’s one of the coolest things they’ve ever seen,” he laughs.
Jacob’s device does occasionally help with his occupational and volunteer trainings, and he’s earned the CB handle “9 ½”, but his favorite place to wear his PIPDriver is at home.
He wears if for all sorts of daily tasks: getting dressed, meals with family, typing on the computer, and, of course, finessing the keys on his stand-up acoustic piano and electric keyboard.
When I ask Jacob what advice he’d give to other finger amputees, he taps into the wisdom of those who first advised him. “It’s not the end of the world,” he says.
But he also has his own advice: “You’re not alone. It’s up to us to learn to overcome,” he says.
Then his voice breaks that calm cadence as he laughs, “And jokes,” he says. “Making jokes helps a lot.”
Jacob lives in Vancouver Island, Canada. Naked Prosthetics currently distributes in Canada, the United States, Spain, Portugal, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Jacob is a member of the NP Finger and Partial Hand Amputee Peer + Support Group and says, “I had a pretty positive journey through my amputation and can provide helpful firsthand insight.” To join Jacob and others, visit facebook.com/groups/fingerandpartialhandamputees/.
“It came more naturally than I expected—I didn’t have to relearn; the finger was just there.”