Bionic prosthetic limbs are here, and being tested on our returning soldiers. The NY Times explores
Imagine you had your limb amputated by an accident and that accident had to do with serving your country overseas. When many of us thought of a prosthesis, especially one that controlled what the arm did years ago, they may think of a hook, but most of us have never realized that years of research has allowed the development of power limbs that while not perfect, may in fact allow someone to develop finer motor skills than was previously thought possible. Devlelopment of these limbs do not come cheap, but the future potential of technologies like this can be huge for someone who just lost an arm, a leg, or had an amputation that occured from an accident.
Most of you who are in your 50’s probably remember Steve Austin, The Bionic Man or even the references to replacement parts in Star Wars. While we are not quite there yet, modern bionics, for lack of a better term is here, now and is being tested on our war veterans, in cooperation with the Army Medical Services of Veteran Affairs to help those who lost a limb to function better with a more realistic replacement. The NY Times Explores…
Learning to Accept, and Master, a $110,000 Mechanical Arm
By JAMES DAO
Published: November 26, 2012
AN ANTONIO — After the explosion, Cpl. Sebastian Gallegos awoke to see the October sun glinting through the water, an image so lovely he thought he was dreaming. Then something caught his eye, yanking him back to grim awareness: an arm, bobbing near the surface, a black hair tie wrapped around its wrist.
The elastic tie was a memento of his wife, a dime-store amulet that he wore on every patrol in Afghanistan. Now, from the depths of his mental fog, he watched it float by like driftwood on a lazy current, attached to an arm that was no longer quite attached to him.
He had been blown up, and was drowning at the bottom of an irrigation ditch.
Two years later, the corporal finds himself tethered to a different kind of limb, a $110,000 robotic device with an electronic motor and sensors able to read signals from his brain. He is in the office of his occupational therapist, lifting and lowering a sponge while monitoring a computer screen as it tracks nerve signals in his shoulder.
Close hand, raise elbow, he says to himself. The mechanical arm rises, but the claw-like hand opens, dropping the sponge. Try again, the therapist instructs. Same result. Again. Tiny gears whir, and his brow wrinkles with the mental effort. The elbow rises, and this time the hand remains closed. He breathes.
“As a baby, you can hold onto a finger,” the corporal said. “I have to relearn.”