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By Brian Padden
21 November 2008
Innovative technology often can make yesterday's science fiction into today's reality. This is particularly true with a prosthetic hand that brings to life fictional accounts of artificial, computer-driven replacement body parts. The bionic hand, called the I-Limb, was named one of the top 50 inventions this year by Time Magazine.
As VOA's Brian Padden reports for one patient this new technology is the fulfillment of a promise made long ago.
Ermino Bugliana has waited 25 years for this moment.
In 1983 he lost his left hand while playing with fireworks near his home Pennsylvania.
"They told me shortly after my accident that we're going to give you an operation here," Bugliana said. "We're going to be able to save all your nerve functioning."
At that time artificial limbs were wooden replicas or hooks with limited functions, but his doctors knew that a bionic hand might be possible.
Today it is a reality and Ermino Bugliana's long wait is over.
"It almost felt like it is a part of me and that's the truth," Bugliana added.
Ermino is getting fitted with a new prosthetic hand called the I-Limb. Sensors embedded in the arm read electrical impulses from the brain to open or close the hand.
|The I-Limb is a new prosthetic hand which uses sensors to read electrical impulses from the brain to open or close the hand|
Then a microprocessor in the palm of the hand controls the individual motors in each finger to determine the force needed to hold different objects. Prosthetist Jared Howell says Ermino's ability to operate the hand on his first day exceeds expectations.
"To have him actually put the hand on and be able to manipulate objects, close and open the hand, you know -- control the thumb, control the fingers, all of that on the very first day to the extent that he was able to do it, I was impressed," Howell said.
Touch Bionics, the Scottish company that makes the hand says more than 400 amputees are now using the I-Limb, which can cost between $50,000 and $70,000. It is a lot of money but the dexterity it offers is unlike any previous prosthetic device.
Upon seeing Ermino with a working hand his sister Lisa Murphy cried.
"He's not going to be looked at as the man without a hand," Murphy said. "He's actually going to be able to walk into a store and be like a normal person."
But Ermino was less emotional.
|Bugliana is focused on the possibilities that his new hand gives him |
"I wouldn't say there is going to be any tears from this direction, if anything there is going to be some hoots and hollering and joyous in that regard," Bugliana said.
Instead of celebrating, Ermino Bugliana is too focused on his new hand and possibilities that lie ahead.