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December 6, 2013

Bionic arms allow double amputee to do everyday tasks

MERRIMAC, Mass. — Thirteen-thousand eight-hundred volts of electricity shot through James Young's upper body three years ago while working as an electrical lineman, shocking him into a coma that lasted three weeks and left him with severe burns.

When he awoke, Young discovered doctors had removed his right arm above the elbow and his left arm at the shoulder, causing him to be thankful to be alive but concerned for his future as a double amputee.

Due to the miracle of  medical research, Young is now a bionic man, able to manuever prosthetic arms through two computer chips in his chest that react to what his brain and nerve impulses tell them to do.

"They replaced nerves and muscles so that they could fit me with prosthetics," said Young. "They rearranged the nerves and re-enervated them. Now I feel my hands as if they were there."

Called Pattern Recognition software, the technology was developed by a Chicago bio-engineering company, CoApt Engineering, with the notion of making amputees as self-sufficient as possible.

The 43-year-old Young underwent 16 surgeries and countless hours of therapy at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago to get where he is today. Dr. Todd Kulken of the institute developed the surgery that integrates mechanical and electrical components into the human body.

Young is still learning about how to best use his bionic arms and knows he will never replicate the wonders of the Six Million Dollar Man television show of the 1970s about an astronaut with bionic implants.

"These don't replace arms by any stretch of the imagination," said Young. "But I don't have to ask someone to do the simplest of things" -- like pick up a package, grab a bottle or do some of the other activities of daily living.

Young said his recovery and rehabilitation from near death by electrocution in September of 2010 has been a tough road, "but  I know I have done everything I can to improve my situation."

---

Elizabeth Rose is a correspondent for the Newburyport, Mass., Daily News.

 

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