Entries in Amputee (7)


New High-Tech Bionic Arm Helps Wounded Warrior 

Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago(CHICAGO) -- Glen Lehman’s battles in Iraq came to an end when a grenade tore through the door of his Humvee, shredding his right arm. Lehman survived, thanks to his quick-thinking comrades and a helicopter evacuation to a nearby air base for emergency medical care. But a new battle was just beginning for the sergeant first class and father of two, who fought excruciating phantom limb pain where his arm used to be.
On top of the pain, Lehman struggled to control his prosthetic arm, which ended with a pincer in place of a hand. "It was hard to even get the prosthetic in the right position," he said, describing how the cumbersome limb turned simple tasks into impossible missions.

Suddenly, the soldier who once led his platoon was unable to make his sons' peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches.

That's when Lehman met Dr. Todd Kuiken, director of the Center for Bionic Medicine and Amputee Services at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Kuiken and his plastic surgeon colleague Dr. Gregory Dumanian had been busy co-developing a bionic limb technology known as targeted muscle reinnervation, or TMR for short.

With TMR, surgeons reroute the nerve stumps left over after an amputation to muscles in the chest and upper arm so they can control a prosthetic arm by simply imagining the movement.

Lehman was one of the first amputees to use groundbreaking pattern recognition technology to control his prosthetic arm. It works like speech recognition, according to its creator, neural engineer Levi Hargrove, and relies on a tiny computer the size of a quarter in the bionic arm.

"When we want to use our hands, we don't think, 'OK, I'm going to move my elbow, then my shoulder and then my hand.' No, we just think about it and it goes," Dumanian said. And achieving this level of intuitive control is where the science gets closer to science fiction.

"I just think of moving my phantom limb, and my prosthesis moves instead," Lehman said. "I would say it's at least 75 percent better and more intuitive."
As Lehman improved the control of his prosthetic, he noticed his phantom pain started to wane -- a finding his doctors plan to explore as a cure for the debilitating syndrome.

The cost of surgery and a standard prosthetic run upwards of $150,000 including rehabilitation, according to Dumanian. The bionic arm and pattern recognition technology would increase the cost, Dumanian said, but it might be more cost effective than hand transplantation

But people shouldn't expect miracles right away, cautions Kuiken.

"Patients need to know it takes about six months for the nerves to grow in," he said. "It's OK to wear a regular prosthesis in the meantime, so they're not left frustrated feeling like they're chasing their tail."

Lehman continues to work with scientists to help them improve the technology for wounded warriors coming home.

And how's that peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich coming along?

"I'm not sure how I'd compare to someone with two working arms -- but I'd be willing to race," Lehman said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Aimee Mullins: Double Amputee a Model, Athlete, Inspiration

Robert Prezioso/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Aimee Mullins has amazing athletic accomplishments, a successful modeling career, and has earned accolades as a motivational speaker. They are such great accomplishments that some people are surprised when they learn that this pillar of strength stands atop prosthetic legs.

Mullins' life is a testament to going beyond labels, to seizing the opportunities inside each of us.

Mullins was born without shinbones, the result of a condition called fibular hemimelia. At the age of 1 she had both of her legs amputated at the knee.

Doctors told her parents she might never learn to walk, but Mullins defied their limited expectations. With aid of prosthetic legs she not only learned to walk, she learned to run -- and fast.

Mullins was a star athlete at Georgetown, becoming the first amputee to compete on an NCAA track team. She went on to compete in 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, setting three world records in the 100m, 200m and long jump.

In 1999, Mullins was invited to model on the runway for designer Alexander McQueen on hand-carved wooden legs complete with six-inch heels.

"I started to hyperventilate," Mullins told ABC News' Diane Sawyer. "I was backstage with Kate Moss and all these incredible supermodels -- Naomi Campbell. And I was opening the show. And I thought, 'Aimee, you've done the Olympics, you can do this.'"


Mullins called the show a "seminal moment" in her life.

"It was beautiful and to have people respond to prosthetics, something that had always represented sadness or loss or not quite the real thing, and have them respond in awe and even coveting them," she said. It "was the kind of empowerment that -- I've never been the same since."

The McQueen show is but one highlight in a successful modeling career. Mullins became the face of a L'Oreal campaign for True Match and was named as one People's 50 Most Beautiful People.

But all the praise hasn't stopped her from being humble.

When asked for the secret to her success, she is quick to honor her supporters -- "people who said, 'Yes, Aimee, we can create anything between where your leg ends and the ground. Yes, we can make you as tall as you want to be. Yes. we can play with your body's ability.'"

Mullins strives to be one of those people for others, traveling around the country giving inspirational speeches, encouraging everyone to harness perceived shortcomings as a springboard for achieving lofty dreams.

"Hand somebody the key to their own power," Mullins said during her speech at TedMed, a conference for bold ideas.

"My issue is with the word, 'disabled,'" Mullins said, "[when] we use it to describe a human being, especially a child. You know, I think there are certain words like 'illegitimate' that should not be used to describe a person. And certainly, we have come far enough in our technology that our language can evolve, because it has an impact. I want a child who thinks, 'Wow, what can I do with my new leg?'"

Mullins cautioned that subjective words like "disabled" can act as shackles.

"It's factual to say I am a bilateral-below-the-knee amputee," she said. "I think it's subjective opinion as to whether or not I am disabled because of that. That's just me."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Firefighter Loses Leg to Bacteria, Vows to Get Back to Work

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Ralphie Lettieri lost a leg to flesh eating bacteria, but he hasn’t lost his positive attitude.

“I feel like I’m a  miracle” Lettieri, 26, told ABC News’ New York affiliate WABC.

Lettieri likely contracted the virus when he took a swim in a pond after getting poison ivy. The flesh eating bacteria present in the pond was able to enter his body through the open sores caused by the poison ivy. Once there it proceeded to wreak havoc, causing his organs to shut down and putting him in a coma within days.

Dr. Louis Riina told WABC Lettieri was “as close to death as any man could be” when surgeons at Nassau University Medical Center made the difficult decision to amputate his left leg.

Now, nearly two months later, Ralphie Lettieri is finally ready to return home to his fiance and 3-year-old son. And although Lettieri still has months of physical therapy ahead of him, he hopes that once he gets a new leg, he’ll be able to resume his duties as a volunteer firefighter at the East Patchogue fire department, where he is a lieutenant.

“With all the technology and the prosthetics I can do just what I did before. I can be like anybody else”

To help Ralphie Lettieri with his medical costs you can make a donation:

The Help Ralphie Fund
c/o A. Citarella, Chief
510 Oakdale Avenue
East Patchogue, NY 11772

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Triple-Amputee Veteran Receives 'Smart Home'

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. Marine Cpl. Juan Dominguez, who lost three of his limbs serving in Afghanistan, his wife, Alexis, and their 8-year-old daughter received the gift of a lifetime on the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11: a custom-built "smart home."

The home is equipped with an elevator, automatic kitchen cabinets and surveillance cameras -- a system that's almost entirely controlled from an iPad.  The home even includes a music studio for Dominguez to play the drums, a passion of his.

"Juan, he's got the heart of a Marine, and it's a never quit attitude," actor Gary Sinise, founder of the Gary Sinise Foundation, told ABC News affiliate KGTV in San Diego.  "He joined the service voluntarily.  He knew that as a Marine, you're going to get sent into harm's way."

"I wanted to be that volunteer," Dominguez told KGTV.  "So the people around me that didn't want to volunteer didn't have to."

The money for the approximately $600,000 home located in Temecula, Calif., came from the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Gary Sinise Foundation.  The goal was to help Dominguez reclaim his independence.

Dominguez was in high school when he watched both World Trade Center towers collapse on television.  At that moment he made a gut decision to join the Marines.

While on tour in Afghanistan two years ago, Dominguez stumbled on an improvised explosive device, or IED, losing both of his legs and an arm.

Dominguez's story immediately hit home for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation's founders, whose younger brother, New York firefighter Stephen Siller, died on 9/11.  As soon as Siller's six brothers and sisters learned of his death, they vowed right then and there to start a foundation in Stephen's name dedicated to helping wounded veterans.

"The fact that we are helping Juan to reclaim his full active life by providing him with a home designed to meet his special needs means everything to Stephen's family," said Frank Siller, chairman of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, in a news release.  "Giving Juan a measure of his life back -- after all he has done -- on the anniversary of the day our brother died, means the world to us."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Amputee Chef Finds His Special Knives Stolen

Ingram Publishing/ThinkStock(SEATTLE) -- Work hasn’t been the same this week for chef Jamison Ausburn, whose specialized knives were stolen from his parked car Monday. Everyone knows the sentimental and professional value knives have for chefs, but since Ausburn is an amputee, his knives were modified so he could function like everyone else.

“They’re a chef’s number one tool,” said Ausburn. “It would be like a carpenter without his hammer.”

Ausburn, a Seattle resident, had returned home from his job Sunday at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and left his car overnight in a parking garage. The next morning when Ausburn attempted to head to work, he was forced to call police because his car had been stolen.

Four days later, his maroon Toyota Camry turned up in a different part of the city. But the knives, worth thousands of dollars, were gone.

“It’s a rearrangement of your routine and you’re without something you’re used to having,” said Ausburn.

The knives were a gift from his grandparents. They wanted to help their grandson pursue a new career, after an accident fifteen years ago left him without a right arm. He named the knives after his grandparents.

But the 40-year-old Ausburn hasn’t let his disability slow him down. Being the hard worker he is, Ausburn only missed one day this week and has been using a replacement knife.

“I’m kind of out of my element,” said Ausburn. “It’s been a rearrangement of my routine.”

Ausburn says there’s plenty for him to do at the café, but he plans to get new specialized knives this weekend. A pricey purchase that will certainly set him back.

“I didn’t let it stop me when I lost my hand,” said Ausburn. “My parents didn’t raise me with those values.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Armless, Legless Man to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro

Courtesy Kyle Maynard(NEW YORK) -- A congenital birth defect left 25-year-old Kyle Maynard a quadruple amputee, but that won't stop him from braving one of the toughest physical tests a person can face -- the nearly 20,000 foot climb up Mount Kilimanjaro.

Though Maynard's arms end at his elbows and his legs stop at his knees, he will use no assistive device to climb the highest peak in Africa.  He'll make the climb using only pieces of bicycle tire taped to the ends of his limbs with heavy duty tape.

"This is something I've wanted to do for years, just because of the level of the challenge.  The harder something is, the better the experience tends to be on the other end once you get through it," Maynard told ABC News.

Maynard has traveled the world as a motivational speaker, competed as a mixed martial artist and a wrestler and owns his own cross fit gym in Suwanee, Ga., but he says that Kilimanjaro will be the hardest feat he's ever tried.

A main mission behind the climb will be to "send a message" to veterans who have been disabled and to disabled children around the world "to show that there are challenges in life, but it doesn't mean that you have to give up. You decide how you're going to draw meaning from the challenges in your life."

The climbing team for "Mission Kilimanjaro 2012" will consist of both "able-bodied" and "disabled" civilians and veterans who will set out on an approximately 16-day ascent in January.  Before the climb, they will be visiting the Mwereni Integrated School for the Blind in Moshi, Tanzania, where they will deliver $25,000 worth of donated medical supplies to the school.

Among the climbing team will be several veterans who live with physical disabilities, traumatic brain injury or post traumatic stress disorder.  Maynard explains that wounded veterans have made a "huge impact" on his life.

He writes on the mission's website: "I am climbing for the people who may realize how much potential they have in their lives.  I am climbing to pay tribute to my heroes -- the men and women of the United States Armed Forces who have sacrificed so much to preserve my freedom."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Penis Amputee Receives No Damages in Kentucky Trial

Comstock/Thinkstock(SHELBY COUNTY, Ky.) -- A unanimous jury ruled in favor of the Kentucky doctor who amputated a portion of Phillip Seaton's penis during an October 2007 circumcision to treat inflammation.

The jury unanimously found that Dr. John Patterson exercised appropriate care when he removed a portion of Seaton's penis after finding cancer and ruled 10-2 against Seaton's claim that Patterson did not properly obtain consent to him before removing his penis.

"We feel the interest of justice has been served," Clay Robinson, Patterson's attorney, told ABC News. "When you hear about someone going in for a circumcision and it turned into a partial amputation, there's going to be a reaction, but it was a pretty clear-cut case. There was no liability here."

Seaton signed a consent form for a routine circumcision. Within the signed forms, a disclaimer included language that recognized Patterson's right to perform any further surgery he deemed necessary if unforeseen conditions arose, Robinson said.

Seaton, 64, sued Patterson in 2008 for removing part of his penis without his permission. The trial got under way Monday in Shelby County, Ky., Circuit Court. Seaton and his wife, Deborah, sought more than $16 million in damages for "loss of service, love and affection."

But Robinson said the surgeon felt he had no other options but to remove the penis immediately.

The tip of Seaton's penis "had the appearance of rotten cauliflower" because it was so inundated with cancer, Robinson told the courtroom on Monday. The defense attorney also told the jury that Patterson only removed about an inch of the penis during the initial surgery before another surgeon removed the rest of his penis at a later date.

Partial penectomy, or a partial removal of the penis; Mohs surgery, a precise surgery used to remove several types of skin cancer; laser and radiation therapies were all options when treating penile cancer, said Dr. David Crawford, a professor of surgery at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

Because the surgeon said the cancer was so severe, Robinson told the courtroom that Patterson could treat it only by surgically removing the organ.

Seaton also sued Louisville's Jewish Hospital, where the surgery was performed. The hospital settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio