Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Double amputee walks again due to Bluetooth

From Larry ShaughnessyCNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua Bleill lost both his legs above the knees when a bomb exploded under his Humvee while on patrol in Iraq on October 15, 2006. He has 32 pins in his hip and a 6-inch screw holding his pelvis together.

Joshua Bleill, pictured here with his girlfriend, is walking again with the aid of prosthetics outfitted with Bluetooth.

Now, he's starting to walk again with the help of prosthetic legs outfitted with Bluetooth technology more commonly associated with hands-free cell phones.

"They're the latest and greatest," Bleill said, referring to his groundbreaking artificial legs.
Bleill, 30, is one of two Iraq war veterans, both double leg amputees, to use the Bluetooth prosthetics. Computer chips in each leg send signals to motors in the artificial joints so the knees and ankles move in a coordinated fashion.

Bleill's set of prosthetics have Bluetooth receivers strapped to the ankle area. The Bluetooth device on each leg tells the other leg what it's doing, how it's moving, whether walking, standing or climbing steps, for example.

"They mimic each other, so for stride length, for amount of force coming up, going uphill, downhill and such, they can vary speed and then to stop them again," Bleill told CNN from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he's undergoing rehab.

"I will put resistance with my own thigh muscles to slow them down, so I can stop walking, which is always nice." Watch Bleill demonstrate his legs »

Bluetooth is the name for short-range wireless technology that can connect computers to printers, MP3 players to speakers and -- perhaps the most well-known use -- cell phones to ear pieces.

Older models of computer-controlled legs have to be "programmed" via wire by laptop computers before the amputee can use them. Those legs required more movement from the amputee's remaining thigh muscle to generate motion in the prosthetic leg.

Because of built-in motors, the Bluetooth legs allow Bleill to walk longer before he tires.
"We've compared walking several laps in both sets of legs and one, your legs come out burning and tired and these, you know, you sometimes are not even breaking a sweat yet."

Bleill says the technology also means he spends less time in a wheelchair. The Marine uses canes to walk with them. He's hoping to get to the point where he can use one cane regularly, and eventually lose the cane altogether.

"I can walk without canes, but it's not real pretty," he said.

This new generation of prosthetic technology was originally conceived to help amputees who had lost only one leg. But it's working for Bleill and Army Lt.Col. Gregory Gadson, who is also using the Bluetooth devices in his legs.

What they are experiencing will help future amputees.

"We are the first ever to try this, so it's learning day-to-day. The [prosthetics] company comes down on a regular basis and checks in with us," Bleill said.

Gadson, a former linebacker at West Point, said they are breaking new ground for amputees. "I think we are kind of pioneering and hopefully blazing a trail for others to try the technology also," he said.

But the technology is not without some problems.

"It's only going to react to how I move," Bleill said. "Unfortunately, sometimes I don't know those reactions, I don't know what I'm doing to make it react. So sometimes the leg kicks harder than I want it to, or farther, and then I start perpetuating, and I start moving faster than I really want to."

Aside from the Bluetooth technology, Bleill's legs have one other thing in common with a cell phone. They need to be charged overnight. Currently, there are no spare batteries available.
What are his long-range plans?

He just wants to make it back to his home state of Indiana and work for a charity or even help the NFL's Indianapolis Colts.
"They do a lot for the community," he said.
He added he simply wants "to give back."
"To, you know, just carry on a normal life. Go home, see my girlfriend, see my family."

Monday, January 21, 2008

New Jersey Law Covers Amputees' Access to Orthotics and Prosthetics

Patrick Totty21 January 2008
Recommend this Article:

Not at all Somewhat Moderately Highly Very Highly
New Jersey has enacted a law guaranteeing access by amputees to comprehensive health insurance coverage for orthotic and prosthetic care. The new law mandates that health insurance plans offer coverage for orthotic and prosthetic care without caps and co-pays that restrict access to prescribed devices.
The bill will help individuals who have undergone amputation of an arm, hand, leg or foot, as well as children born without limbs or differently formed limbs.
The state joins California, Colorado, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon and Rhode Island in guaranteeing access to prosthetic care.
Editor's Note: More informally called braces and splints, orthotics are appliances or apparatuses used to support, align, prevent or correct deformities or improve the function of limbs.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Amputee sprinter ruled ineligible for Olympics

Associated Press
Updated: January 14, 2008, 1:45 PM ESTMONTE CARLO, Monaco (AP) - All his life, Oscar Pistorius has had to battle adversity. Competing in the Beijing Olympics is a challenge the double-amputee runner may not be able to overcome.

The IAAF ruled Monday that the South African is ineligible to compete in Beijing — or any other sanctioned able-bodied competitions — because his "Cheetah" racing blades are considered "technical aids" which give him a clear competitive advantage.

The IAAF ruled on Monday that Oscar Pistorius cannot participate in the Beijing Olympics. (Andrew Medichini / Associated Press)

"An athlete using this prosthetic blade has a demonstrable mechanical advantage (more than 30 percent) when compared to someone not using the blade," the IAAF said.

The 21-year-old Pistorius had long learned not to consider his artificial legs a hindrance, even refusing to park his car in a spot for disabled people. Now the sport he learned to love as a teenager has thrown up a huge obstacle, just as he was making his name among the world's able-bodied athletes.

"That's a huge blow," said Pistorius' manager, Peet Van Zyl. "He has been competing in South African able-bodied competition for the past three years. At this stage it looks like he is out of any able-bodied event."

Van Zyl spoke briefly with Pistorius, saying he "could hear from his voice that he is disappointed."

Pistorius said last week he would appeal "to the highest levels" if the ruling went against him. He could take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The International Olympic Committee said it "respects" the IAAF decision.

"This decision has nothing to do with Oscar Pistorius' athletic merits. What is important is to ensure fair competition," the IOC said in a statement.

South Africa's national athletics federation feels bound by the IAAF rules and must keep Pistorius out of some national races he has entered for several years.

"It rules him out with immediate effect. We use the IAAF rule book," South Africa federation president Leonard Chuene said. "If we had our rules and our own competition it would be easier. It is a huge problem." Pistorius finished second in the 400 meters at the South African National Championships last year against able-bodied runners.

"It's unfortunate because he could have boosted team athletics at the Olympics," Chuene said.

The IAAF made its decision based on a study from German Professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann, who found several indicators the Cheetah blades provided an unfair edge.

The federation said Pistorius had been allowed to compete in some able-bodied events until now because his case was so unique that such artificial protheses had not been properly studied.

"We did not have the science," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said. "Now we have the science."

No one directly questioned the findings of Brueggemann. The producer of Pistorius' Cheetahs and the International Paralympic Committee said, though, that more tests should be undertaken before such a decision could be taken.

Considering the Olympics open less than seven months from now and that he still needs to run a qualifying time without having the right to compete in IAAF events further reduces the possibilities for Pistorius.

The ruling does not affect his eligibility for Paralympic events, in which he was a gold medalist in Athens in 2004.

The runner worked with Brueggemann in Cologne for two days of testing in November to learn to what extent the j-shaped carbon-fiber extensions to his amputated legs differed from the legs of fully-abled runners.

Brueggemann found that Pistorius was able to run at the same speed as able-bodied runners on about a quarter less energy. He found that once the runners hit a certain stride, athletes with artificial limbs needed less additional energy than other athletes.

The professor found that the returned energy "from the prosthetic blade is close to three times higher than with the human ankle joint in maximum sprinting."

The IAAF adopted a rule last summer prohibiting the use of any "technical aids" deemed to give an athlete an advantage over another.

Pistorius has set world records in the 100, 200 and 400 in Paralympic events.

Pistorius was born without fibulas — the long, thin outer bone between the knee and ankle — and was 11 months old when his legs were amputated below the knee.

He began running competitively four years ago to treat a rugby injury, and nine months later won the 200 meters at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.

Pistorius competed in the 400 at two international-level able-bodied meets in 2007. He finished second in a B race in 46.90 seconds at the Golden League meet in Rome on July 13 and, two days later, was disqualified for running out of his lane in Sheffield, England.

Monday, January 7, 2008

1/7/2008 9:03:59 AM
By Ben Pherson

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

At night, when Ryan Kocer dreams, he has two legs.

For most people, that's a given. But for Kocer, it's not reality.

Kocer, a senior at Wagner High School in South Dakota, lost his left leg after an August accident on his family's farm.

Kocer's legs were pinned between a truck and a grain bin. Doctors initially feared Kocer would lose both legs. They managed to save his right leg, but were forced to amputate his left leg just below the knee.

Prior to the accident, Kocer wasn't an average teenager. And he still isn't.

Kocer is a top-ranked three-time state wrestling champion in South Dakota, and he was his high school's star running back and linebacker. In fact, his high school football team had already played -- and won -- its first game of the season when Kocer's accident occurred.

An average teen likely would have gone into deep depression and never participated in varsity athletics again. But remember, Kocer's no average teen.

He skipped the depression and decided he wasn't done with athletics.

Kocer, minus one leg, made his return to the wrestling mat on Friday at The Clash National Wrestling Duals at UCR Regional Sports Center.

Kocer had been in the Wagner wrestling room all season, riding a bike and working himself back into shape. But until a week ago, he had not participated in live wrestling. He rejoined full practices last week and made a triumphant return to competition Friday.

Wrestlers are not allowed to use prosthetics, so Kocer was forced to remove his prosthetic leg before his matches Friday.

With his mom near tears on the edge of the mat, Kocer crawled out to meet his first opponent of the afternoon session. Starting from a down position, Kocer worked his way through that match, winning a close decision and receiving a standing ovation from much of the crowd focused on that mat.

"It felt good to get out there. It was nice to feel like things are starting to go my way," Kocer said.

Kocer won another decision in his only other match of the day. He said he wasn't nearly as nervous the second time around.

"It was much easier. I felt so much more relaxed," Kocer said.

Wagner wrestling coach Ernie Valentine said he never doubted Kocer would rejoin the team.

"It wasn't a matter if he would be back, it was a matter of what capacity would he be back," Valentine said. "Ryan is the kind of kid who when he says he's going to do something, he's going to do it. He told me from Day 1 that he'd be back, so I knew he'd be back."

Kocer said the toughest part about jumping back into the sport he loves was the conditioning. He was exhausted after his first match, resting on the mat near his team's bench long after his match ended.

"The only way to get into wrestling shape is to actually get out there and wrestle, so I'm behind in that area," he said.

Kocer inspired many wrestlers at UCR Regional Sports Center on Friday.

Admirers took the time to shake his hand and offer congratulations throughout the day.

"Just having him in the room, as our captain, as our leader, that's been pretty (special)," Valentine said. "Today was great, but having him in the room has been the biggest thing."

Friday, January 4, 2008

Phantom Pain and How to Deal With It....

Phantom Pain without Medication

Despite its "ghostly" connotation, phantom sensation is most certainly a realistic, tangible event experienced by millions of amputees world wide.
Whilst the debate over what causes phantom pain continue, the debate often overshadows the bottom line: Amputees are in pain because of it.

Phantom sensation is usually experienced by most amputees at one time or another. Some of us are blessed with very little exposure to the "unpleasantries" of phantom sensation, some experience severe pain on a daily basis.

Phantom sensation is not just the feeling of having a limb when no limb is present (which usually goes away). It is a term used for any sensation or pain originating from a residual (stump) limb.

Phantom sensation can range from tingling sensations to severe sharp, stabbing pain that can only be controlled via professional pain management.

Here are some tips on dealing with phantom sensation and pain.

Phantom Pain Relief Without Medication
(Condensed from The Christian Science Monitor)

Listed below are ways that members of Lower Extremity Amputees providing Support (LEAPS) of Kansas have found helpful in relieving phantom pain.
These methods don't always work, of course, and what works for one person may not work for another. Remember, check with your doctor if you have any questions before trying these methods.

1. Wrap your stump in a warm, soft fabric, such as a towel. The warmth will sometimes increase circulation. Poor circulation is thought to be one cause of phantom pain.
2. Mentally exercise the limb that is not there in the area that is painful.
3. Mentally relax the missing limb and your stump.
4. Do some mild overall exercise to increase circulation.
5. Exercise the stump.
6. Tighten the muscles in the stump, then release them slowly.
7. Put ace wrap or shrinker sock on. If you have your prosthesis, put it on and take a short walk.
8. If you have pain with the prosthesis on, take it and the prosthetic sock off and put it back on after a few minutes. Sometimes the stump is being pinched and changing the way it is on will relieve the pressure on that nerve.
9. Change positions. If you are sitting, move around in your chair, or stand up to let the blood get down into your stump.
10. Soak in a warm bath or use a shower message or whirlpool on your stump. A hot tub is reported to do wonders.
11. Massage your stump with your hands or better yet have someone else message it while you try to relax your entire body.
12. Keep a diary of when pain is most severe. This can help you and your doctor identify recurring causes.
13. Wrap stump in a heating pad.
Some people have found help through self-hypnosis, biofeedback and chiropractic. If you have not found relief through any home remedies and the pain is not being controlled through normal medication, a pain center should be considered.

Other methods of dealing with Phantom Sensation

by Claude Poumerol
(former World Record Holder (88-95) Womens BK 100 meter sprint)
In 1964, at the age of 16, I was the youngest member ever on the French Olympic track team. All my life I had loved to run, play games, chase friends and fly like the wind. To train, secretly at night, I had to jump the wall that separated the Catholic girl's boarding school from the boy's school next door. They had the only track!

The trial to qualify for the team were held in Paris. When I lined up to run, I didn't even have the appropriate spikes. A kind runner lent me her spare pair. Coaches and of officials were wondering who this scrawny kid was. They found out 100 meters later. I was not only the scrawniest, I was the fastest! I was going to the Olympics Games in Tokyo.

On a beautiful Sunday, two weeks before leaving for the Games, I asked my father to take me for a drive to enjoy the freedom and excitement I felt because my dream had come true. It was not to be. A drunk driver suddenly came around a corner, head on. When I woke from a coma three months later I learned I might never walk again. And that my father had been killed.

I did learn to walk again with the aid of crutches then a cane. After graduating from La Sorbonne, I came to Canada, married and had two children.

In 1985 cancer overtook my left leg. Several amputations followed starting at the ankle and ending just below the knee. It was at the time Steve Fonyo was running across Canada. He inspired me, as had earlier another young amputee I had met, Terry Fox, and then later another found another friend in Rick Hansen. All three inspired me to pursue my ill-fated running career interrupted twenty-one years before.

Three months after the last operation I challenged the Mayor of Nanaimo, British Columbia, where I was living at the time, to a marathon run to raise money for cancer research. Together we raised $20,000. To top it all I ran the final miles into Victoria with Steve Fonyo.

For me the rest is history. Three years of intensive training with able-bodied athletes in Calgary and world class competition culminated in a Gold and silver medal in the 100 and 200 meter sprints at the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul, Korea. From 1988 to l995 I held the world record in the 100 meter event and still have the world record in the 200 meter event. My 1964 dream had finally come true!

But this type of intensive training. (read wear-and-tear on my stump and body), did not come without a price. A price in pain.

After Seoul it was time to get on with making a living as a motivational speaker and as I was to learn, living in pain. When you train at a high level you expect some aches and pains, but through repetition you don't notice that much, or ignore the pain for the ultimate goal. Not so in daily living.

I began to experience phantom limb pain much more frequently than before. My usual remedy was to transfer the pain to the other foot by applying equal or more pain by manually squeezing the other foot until relief came. This would work at home, but imagine me taking off my shoe and squeezing my foot in public

One day in early 1994 on a visit to my prosthetist, Tony van der Waarde, I was venting my frustrations on not being able to deal more effectively with the phantom pain better and earlier. He told me about a new alternative pain relief system called Farabloc.

Tony had a sample of Farabloc which looks and feels like an ordinary piece of linen but contains extremely thin steel fibres. The sample he gave me was about the size of a large handkerchief. I took it home and upon my first hint of phantom pain I wrapped it around my stump. Lo and behold the pain was caught in the bud! I didn't need to squeeze and I didn't have to take a pain-killer pill!

Shortly after that I met the inventor of Farabloc, Frieder- Kempe. He explained to me how Farabloc through its shielding effect protects damaged nerve endings. It stimulates blood circulation and aids muscle relaxation and can be applied for muscle strain and some arthritic pains. A seamless stump sock of Farabloc was made for me so I could wear it full time or whenever an attack of phantom pain announced itself.

Interestingly, I've noticed that since I received the sock, even though I don t wear it all the time, the frequency of phantom pain has diminished.

Recently I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, an incurable disease that causes severe pain in the joints plus daily exhaustion. This unfortunate development has been attributed to the strain of extreme over exertion in my training for the sprint events. Some other complications have also contributed to the onset of Fibromyalgia.

Medication has been prescribed. To add to that, I'll be using a larger blanket of Farabloc on my shoulders and back, where most of the pain is centred.

I'll be the first to let you know the results!

Claude Poumerol
Motivational Speaker
Gold and Silver Medal Winner
1988 Seoul Paralympics

Thursday, January 3, 2008

She without arm, he without leg - ballet - Hand in Hand

I love this video and testimonial to living life with a purpose!

History to Future in Prosthetics!

Here is a short video sharing the origins of prosthetics to the future, Enjoy!

Advances in Prosthesis

Thursday, May 24, 2007
By Marrecca Fiore

Newer technologies are making prosthetics more functional than ever before.
The use of microprocessors and lighter materials has made the devices easier to use and maneuver.
Examples of how far the technology has come could be seen a few months ago in amputee, Heather Mills turn on Dancing with the Stars and, more recently, in efforts by South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius to become the first amputee runner in the Olympics.
It's estimated that about 1.9 million or one out of every 200 people has had some kind of amputation, according to the Amputation Coalition.
Prosthetics have long helped people regain the functionality of a lost limb. And today, they’re available for just about every body part from legs and arms, to heart valves and breasts.
“Some of the biggest advancements include the use of thermal plastics and composites, which have made the prosthetic lighter and stronger,” said Brad Ruhl, vice president of sales and marketing for technical orthopedics at Otto Bock HealthCare. “There’s also been a lot of advancements in terms of design that really help people function at a higher level.”

Microprocessor Technology
Microprocessors, powered by electronic and computer technology, are nothing new to the field of prosthetics. What is fairly new, however, is the use of the technology in the lower extremities.
“It’s been around for 15 or 20 years,” said Joe McTernan, director of reimbursement services for the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association. “What’s primarily come into play in recent years is its use in knees and feet.”

The C-Leg and Ossur’s power knee and Propio foot are some examples of the latest and greatest technology in prosthetics, said McTernan.
“With microprocessor technology, electrodes are placed over the socket of the limb and the patient is trained that when they flex certain muscles, it sends a signal to the motor to do a specific motion,” he said. “So the electrode picks that signal up and that, for example, causes the hand to open or close.”
The technology has made impressive strides in knee technology, said McTernan. Whereas the traditional prosthetic knee uses a hydraulic cylinder that has to be adjusted for more or less resistance, a knee using microprocessor technology is more fluid and acts more like an anatomical knee, he said. “One of things that this allows a patient to do that they couldn’t do before is walk foot over foot downstairs,” McTernan said. “Before, you would have to lock the prosthetic knee and basically drag that leg down the stairs. Even going down a hill, you would have to lock the knee in place and kind of drag the leg. So what it’s really done is allowed people to walk more naturally.”

Likewise, new technology in foot prosthesis uses carbon fiber for better flexibility when moving from one gate to the next. In some cases, a prosthetic foot is able to take a reading from a non-amputated foot so that the two feet will always be in proper alignment, said McTernan.
Two-thousand-eight Olympic hopeful Pistorius runs on a pair of "Cheetahs," which are j-shaped blades made of carbon fiber. Born with lower leg and feet defects, Pistorius had both legs removed below the knee when he was 11-months-old.

The Future of Prosthesis By far the most exciting advancements in prosthetics are still a few years off from hitting the commercial market. A team of researchers led by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) has developed a prosthetic arm prototype for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that can be controlled neurally.
“What this means is that your mind would think about making a movement and your hand or arm would do it,” said Otto Bock’s Ruhl. “It’s truly the first step toward the kind of bionics you used to see on television.”

In recent years, the use of vacuum technology in which the prosthesis is attached to limb using a suction-like method has allowed amputees to remain active, even competing in sporting events like the Paralympic Games. “Before vacuum technology, which really allows the prosthetic to fit to the body intimately, athletes would have to worry, if they were running for example, literally about their leg coming out from under them,” Ruhl said. “Now it’s about pushing the limits and trying to see how far amputee athletes can go.” Ruhl said researchers are also studying the possibility of skeletal attachment in prosthesis. “With direct skeletal attachment you would eliminate the need to attach the prosthesis to a socket and give (the amputee) absolute confidence in the limb reattachment,” Ruhl added. “So hopefully this is also something we’ll see down the road.”

Some Facts about Prosthesis
These are some basic facts about prosthesis provided by the Web site, For more information, visit
What are prosthetics?
Prosthetics are artificial appliances used to replace or restore human body parts in order to regain the lost functionality of the missing part.

What types of prosthetics are available?
Prosthetics are available for almost every body part and for just about every condition. Amputees benefit greatly from prosthetic limbs, which help them to regain the ability to walk or use their hands. Women who have had a mastectomy can benefit from prosthetic breasts in the form of implants. People with bad hips or knees can have these replaced with prosthetic alternatives and enable them to get up and moving again. Even prosthetic heart valves are available.

How do prosthetics improve your quality of life?
Prosthetics help people regain control over their lives and the ability to do things for themselves. They can walk around without assistance and tie their own shoelaces. Regaining control over your life is the most often cited reason of how a prosthetic can improve the life of an amputee.

What are some of the latest improvements in artificial limbs?
One of the best examples of advances in prosthetics technology is the myoelectric hand, a device fitted with a computer chip that can sense when you give a brain command to grasp something. Even though a person may have lost a hand, he or she can still tie a shoelace using this prosthesis. With the aid of computer technology and digital imaging, prosthetics are fitting better, lasting longer and providing a more natural look and feel to amputees.

How much does an artificial leg cost?
A simple prosthetic leg can cost around $2000, but once the prosthetist's costs and the latest mechanical and computer-aided devices are integrated, costs can range up to $10,000 or $15,000. This does not include the cost of maintenance required on the prosthetic leg.
This article was reviewed by Dr. Manny Alvarez