First Amputated Woman to FEEL with Prosthetic Arm
People who have lost an arm say that they don’t have any hope of ever regaining dexterity or sense of touch – even with a prosthetic arm attachment. Most of the traditional products available to arm amputees use muscle signals in the shoulder as command to move the prosthetic attachment, but people with a missing arm still struggle to perform one simple task, let alone doing two or three things simultaneously.
But it all started to change in 2006 when a former US marine became the first female amputee who was fitted with a bionic arm. Not only did her new attachment give her back the dexterity she missed having with her old hand, but the fake arm also returned her sense of touch – something that had previously been considered impossible.
Former US Marine Gets Her Life Back
37-year-old Claudia Michelle had her arm amputated from the shoulder after an unfortunate motorbike accident in 2004 which changed her life forever. The former US marine was no longer able to perform the simplest of tasks like opening a bottle or picking up objects and with the lack of technological advancements in the prosthetics market, she gave up hope of ever gaining back the physical control and dexterity she had with her real arm.
But after years of research trials, a team of doctors at Cleveland Clinic have finally created a prosthetic arm using bionic technology that doesn’t just allow Claudia to perform tasks like she would with a real arm but also allows her to feel objects with her prosthetic fingers!
The cutting-edge technology uses motorized prosthetic arms already available on the market and combines them with a new bionic system to help amputees perform tasks that they never thought would be possible after losing an arm.
Bionic Technology in Prosthetics
In 2006, two years after losing her left arm, Claudia was fitted with a new bionic attachment, making her the first woman ever to use a prosthetic arm that can be moved through a person’s thoughts. The arm was fitted into Claudia’s shoulder through a surgical procedure whereby doctors took the remaining nerves from her amputated arm and transplanted them into her chest. This way, whenever she contracts her chest the nerves send an electrical impulse to her prosthetic arm, ordering it to move. Claudia says that controlling the bionic attachment feels so natural that sometimes she forgets that she doesn’t have an arm.
After having the surgical procedure, it took Claudia 6 months to fully recover after which she was able to use the arm simply by focusing her thoughts on what she wanted it to do. When someone tells Claudia to bend her arm, the muscles in her chest move almost instantaneously even though her mind is focusing on moving the arm instead of the muscles in her chest. As soon as her chest muscle flinches, her arm moves automatically in any direction she wishes.
New Upgrades Made
Now, the doctors have fitted her with an even better version of the first bionic arm, upgrading the technology to include a computerized touch system that restores her ability to feel sensations the way she used to with her real arm.
Claudia says that with the new attachment she is able to feel an object and determine its texture. This, in turn, helps her decide how she should grip it. She no longer has to look at the object she is holding to know if her grip is too strong or loose, she can simply feel it between her fingers and tell the difference. Claudia says that this may not sound like a big achievement to most, but it has completely changed her life and made her feel more normal again.
The new touch technology is helping Claudia interact with her environment in a more natural way and the arm has now become a part of her, traveling with her wherever she goes. The attachment has helped the former veteran live her life to the fullest and go on independent travelling adventures in spite having a major disability.
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