Entries in Prosthesis (3)


Actor, Iraq Vet Lobby for Increased Biomedical Research Support

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Just as wounded soldiers are returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan with amputations, brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, a new survey finds flagging public support for biomedical research needed to help them recover.

Two people who can testify to the importance of such research are CSI actor Robert David Hall, and Lt. Col. Tim Karcher of the U.S. Army.  Both men are double amputees.  On Thursday, they helped launch an education and media campaign to raise support and awareness for basic biomedical research to help wounded veterans and civilians.

“I have arguably $80,000 to $100,000 worth of legs on right now,” Karcher told ABC’s Top Line Thursday, showing off his new prosthetics beneath a pair of khaki shorts.

“It’s a little tougher if you’re a civilian,” quipped Hall, “I only have $30,000 worth of legs on me.”

It was a good-natured exchange with a serious message.  Karcher lost both his legs in Afghanistan in 2009.  Since then he says he has seen and experienced huge progress in the biomedical and prosthetics fields.

Karcher said he is not worried about declining support for soldiers like himself.

“There’s no other nation in the world that would put the kind of investment in their wounded soldiers like our nation does,” he said.

But Hall, a civilian, said a survey released last week found waning public opinion on basic biomedical research.  The survey, from Zogby International, reported support among Americans dropped to 55.7 percent, down from more than 70 percent during the Vietnam era.

“I can’t tell you how important it is to keep the ball rolling.  It’s one of the reasons Tim and I are here, is to make sure that funding is maintained,” said Hall.

The actor said while he realizes it is a tough time economically for Congress, the country must not let down service members.  Especially since military research for veterans often transfers over to civilians.

Karcher’s new legs are the latest prosthetic advancement -- they were approved for above-the-knee amputees less than four months ago, and Karcher was the first to receive them.  The legs have a five-day battery life -- a significant improvement from the 36 to 40 hours in the previous version.  Karcher also said they have running and stair-climbing functions, and have a more natural gait.

“I have the old version,” said Hall, pulling up his pant leg to give a side-by-side comparison of the prosthetic legs.  “And this is the cooler new one,” he added, patting Karcher on the knee.

Karcher said a joint project between the Department of Defense and a private company is working on “combat-capable” legs.  Karcher’s legs are one of the first generations of such prosthetics.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Girl Scouts Patent Prosthetic Device for Toddler, Win $20,000 Prize

Courtesy Dale Fairchild(AMES, Iowa) -- Forget selling cookies to earn badges. Girl Scouts today build innovative biomedical devices to win patents.

In what the Girl Scouts of the USA said may be its first patent-worthy project, a group of Girl Scouts from Ames, Iowa, developed a prosthetic hand device to help a three-year-old toddler without fingers write. The device not only won the group the $20,000 FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award from the X Prize Foundation last month, it scored the scouts a provisional patent.

"I thought it was awesome," said Zoe Groat, 12, a sixth-grade member of the team called the Flying Monkeys. "It was really exciting to know that someone was able to use something we made."

Along with five other girls aged 11- to 13-years-old, Groat entered the worldwide FIRST LEGO League science and engineering challenge that, this past year, focused on robotics applied to medical issues.

They'd already decided to work on hand and arm prosthetics when Melissa Murray, one of the scouts' mothers and co-coach of the team, met Dale Fairchild on a Yahoo Group for families affected by congenital limb differences. (Murray's daughter, one of the Flying Monkeys, uses an adaptive device for a hand difference.)

Fairchild's three-year-old daughter Danielle, born with symbrachydactyly, had a thumb and palm but no fingers on her right hand. Once the Flying Monkeys learned about Danielle, they decided to dedicate their project to helping her.

Between the fall of 2010 and this spring, the girls spent at least 180 hours on the project, Murray said. They met with prosthetics manufacturers and doctors to research the project. Once they had Danielle's measurements, they tried using all kinds of materials found in crafts shops and medical specialty stores to create the most helpful device.

Finally, they settled on an invention made from moldable plastic (like that used by occupational therapists), a pencil grip and Velcro (to help fasten the device to Danielle's hand). In total, the device cost less than $50 to make, Murray said.

"The kids all learned -- and they will tell you -- that it is a trial and error process and you learn a lot from your mistakes," Murray said.

The team recently received a provisional patent for their device and will use the prize money to file for a utility patent, Murray. It could take up to three years to secure the final patent but Murray said the scouts "would love to see it go as far as they can go."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Technologies Help Oregon Woman Accept Prosthesis

Advanced Arm Dynamics(PORTLAND, Ore.) -- When a severe infection caused Jan Schumacher, 58, of Portland Oregon, to lose her fingers, she preferred a functional prosthetic hand to a glossy silicone one that would look more natural.

"Jan came to us and told us she wanted something 'trick badass,'" said MacJulian Lang, a prosthetist and clinical director of Advanced Arm Dynamics in Portland.

Lang outfitted her with a prosthesis that looks more like a motorcycle glove than a prosthetic hand.  The fingers move with a slight flex of a muscle in Schumacher's palm.  Now, Schumacher is able to grab her coffee mug, lift weights, or even open a door.

And the glove-shaped prosthesis comes fully equipped with an iPod Nano -- not because it serves any prosthetic purpose, but because it helps the prosthesis look "badass," said Lang.

Two million amputees currently live in the U.S., according to the nonprofit Amputee Coalition, an advocacy group.  An estimated 570 people lose a limb each day.

Now, more of those patients say they couldn't care less about fitting in and hiding their amputations.  Instead, many say they are embracing their circumstances and finding ways to flaunt them.

"Long gone are the days of the wooden leg," said Lang.  "Much more often now people roll up their sleeves and show the prosthesis for what it is."

Before her amputation, Schumacher owned one of the largest bridal stores in Oregon.  Her store, "Tres Fabu Bridal," handled nearly 1,200 weddings a year.  But after her infection and subsequent amputation, Schumacher had to close her store.

"I went from owning a business, to not even being able to open a door on my own," she said.  "For many of us, the experience has been so debilitating."

Schumacher considered wearing a prosthesis while undergoing rehabilitation.  But she said she did not know what to expect.

"First you think of the hook, like Captain Hook.  But I was shown an articulated hand, so that gave me hope," she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio