Entries in Veteran (3)


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


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


Army Vet Struggles to Receive Brain Treatment as Private Contractor

Courtesy Jennifer Barcklay(SPOKANE, Wash.) -- Jennifer Barcklay, a civilian contractor who was injured by a bomb in Afghanistan, will finally receive therapy for a traumatic brain injury after a nearly two-year fight to get treatment.

While Barcklay, an Army veteran, needed specialized medical treatment after serving her country, she faced two problems: she is a private contractor and not eligible for treatment active duty soldiers can receive, and she lives in Spokane, Washington miles away from hospitals offering that treatment.

On Wednesday, almost two years after she survived a mortar blast in Afghanistan and one year after doctors first recommended cognitive rehabilitation therapy, her insurer agreed to pay for this expensive treatment.  She and her attorney, David Linker, received approval in the form of a letter dated June 15, approving travel arrangements and treatment at a specific facility in California.

After the long waiting period, Barcklay said she has mixed feelings.

"I'm happy that they're finally doing what they're supposed to do, but I'm not sure about the whole process," she said.  "What it put me and my family through was horrible."

Barcklay, 40, worked for defense contractors starting from 2006 after being honorably discharged from the Army in 1996 for a knee injury.  But her insurer, Chartis Insurance, a division of AIG, wouldn't cover her cognitive rehabilitation therapy, as first reported by the Spokesman-Review.

The therapy is an expensive treatment that thousands of U.S. soldiers are receiving.  Those soldiers can usually obtain treatment from Department of Veterans Affairs facilities because they obtained the injuries while on active duty.

Military contractors are often in dangerous war zones but denied medical benefits despite statutory protections.  The Defense Base Act of 1941, in fact, requires defense contractors to provide medical and disability insurance for their employees in war zones.

Barcklay was a civilian helicopter mechanic when she obtained her injuries.  In September 2009, an enemy mortar exploded 10 yards away from her at Forward Operating Base Shank in Afghanistan.  The blast, which severely injured two other people, slammed her into the ground, causing ear trauma, joint pain and, she says, it continues to cause frequent seizures.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio