App revolution transforms amputee’s life

Double amputee Jason Koger demonstrates his i-limb ultra revolution hands. Picture: AP

Double-amputee Jason Koger used to fly hundreds of kilometres to visit a clinician when he wanted to adjust the grips on his bionic hands.

Now, he’s got an app. Koger came to Philadelphia this week to demonstrate the i-limb ultra revolution, a prosthetic developed by British firm Touch Bionics. Using a stylus and an iPhone, Koger can choose any of 24 grip patterns that best suit his needs.

It’s the latest evolution in equipment for Koger, a 34-year-old married father of three from Owensboro, Kentucky, who lost his hands in an all-terrain vehicle accident in 2008.

“Five years ago, I couldn’t pull my pants up by myself. Today, I go hunting and do some of the things that I probably never imagined I could have done five years ago,” said Koger.

The technology indicates how rapidly the field of prosthetics is changing, benefiting patients from injured military members to victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Practitioners say increased government research in the wake of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is driving some of the advances.

In Koger’s case, he was shocked by a downed power line. He went into a coma and had no idea until he woke up three days later that doctors had amputated both his limbs at mid-forearm. His wife spent those three days researching prosthetics, Koger said.

Since then, he’s used a variety of prostheses, which he considers like tools — different extensions for different tasks. Electric hooks have allowed him to pursue his passion for hunting.

Myoelectric hands, which react to electrical impulses generated by his remaining arm muscles, offer more precise movements.

The previous version of Koger’s myoelectric device required programming by a prosthetist, meaning Koger had to fly to Advanced Arm Dynamics in Dallas. The prosthetist would work with Koger to pick a few grip patterns — such as pinching, pointing or shaking hands — to program into the i-limb.

Now, the latest i-limb comes with iPhone or iPad app that allows Koger to reprogram his hand with the touch of a stylus.


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