How Neuro-Prosthetics Will Change Many Lives.
Neuro-Prosthetics, Making Life Simple Again
Neuro-Prosthetics, Make Walking Look Easy
Everyday of summer vacation was another day for Eric to go out and experience the wilderness of the world. There he was, a young ten-year-old boy playing a great game of soccer with his neighbourhood friends. However something happened that day that changed his life forever. He missed a wide-open net! All of the young kids started laughing and making fun of him, so Eric ran to get the ball that way he wouldn’t be able to hear them. He was running with tears of embarrassment in his eyes and idea’s of revenge on his mind that he completely forgot to look both ways while he was running to get the ball. Suddenly that’s when it all happened. The only thing you heard from a 3-block radius was the sound of tires skidding, as the civic tried to stop in time, but it was too late. Bam! Eric was tossed over the hood of the car and ended up on the road behind it. No one knew how to react not even the driver of the car. In fact all he did was call the ambulance and drive off. By the time Eric got to the hospital the surgeon sat with his parents and told him that it would be nearly impossible to fix the leg, and that we would need to be amputated. Ever since that day, Eric has been taking life one limp at a time.
Eric isn’t a made up character; he is my childhood friend who lost his leg. You can call this my “reason of interest” but it is much more than that. It became my only goal in life, we grew up together and since I was young I would always want to make him feel the same as he did before the incident. When it came to playing sports it was nearly impossible to hide the reality, and he would just sit on a chair and watch us play. I told him that I would make his life easy again, that I will help him play like he used to. To this day I will never go back on that promise, he is what my whole life is about. My studies in engineering are all to help him, he’s my best friend to this day and he always tells me “Mass it’s ok I’m used to it now its been 10 years” I look at him smile and tell him you know that won’t change anything. It is all still in research and there have been a few trials in recent months, but when I finish my education their will be results and their will be a new technology on the market for prosthetic, I guarantee it.
The work of a mechanical engineer is to innovate the world and making it easier to live. Many people become engineers because “they make good money” but there are many engineers that just want to help humanity. This doesn’t mean that any human should be left out. There have been many recent projects that have started to create neuro-prosthetic limbs, which will target amputees and people that are paralyzed. The importance is quite obvious and motive is quite clear, they want to make a device that will make you feel like nothing ever happened. As if that accident that made you lose a limb never happened. To live your life as you’ve always known to live it without any discomfort, or change in your lifestyle.
I won’t go into so much detail about how it works, because to understand the technology without an engineering degree would be like giving and 8 year old kid a calculus problem. The way they work is actually quite simple. The prosthetic will be electrically powered and attached to small “microchips” that are planted on the brain. The microchips are directly wired to the prosthetic under the skin, this will make the wires look like veins, so to the brain there is no confusion.”The basic idea is that the electrodes would pick up signals from neurons”(Jay p2) sending impulse to the brain as our nervous system does already. Isn’t that what we would all like, for it to look, act and feel natural?
Some people might not see the importance in the research, because they don’t know an amputee or aren’t an amputee. How ever the world function on fear and security. Many people on this planet will follow steps and ways of doing things because they are scared to just go out in the world and do something on their own, because it might lead to consequences. I believe that the ability to always have fully functioning limbs, even after being in a plane crash, is something that everyone would want. These neuro-prosthetic will get rid of the fear of loosing a limb, because it will make life seem as if you never lost it in the first place. This will lead people to believe that they can do all those crazy things they always wanted to do, but where always stopping themselves because of the fear of getting hurt.
People might be worried that society will look and treat them differently if they see a mechanical limb attached to their body. That kids will stop what they are doing and say, “look mommy a robot”. This is not the case, “The future prosthetic arm will be covered by a sensitive polymer skin,”(Polytech p3) which has been engineered to feel and look exactly as skin does. This will literally be like a sleeve that you just slip on in the morning. Which would be as tedious as putting your socks on. Of course the only time you would be put on the spot about it would be at airport security, but I don’t think they will ask you to take off your arm before walking trough the detectors.
For the past few weeks I have been trying to get interviews with a few medical engineers or prosthetic specialists. How ever my attempts have always resulted in either no answer or they tell me that they are too busy to answer questions for some cegep student. I then decided to interview an amputee and talk about what he went through and if he knows about neuro-prosthetic and what is his opinion on the technology. The man’s name is Gregory and he had lost his arm in a work accident. Gregory is a retired sheet metal worker who lost his arm when he was 45, he had been working for that company for 20 years at the time. He didn’t want to go into too much detail but he told me that the emergency stop on the machine had failed to work. He felt that it was the only positive that came out of the whole thing, because he was able to get 2 million dollars from the company since it was their fault. Gregory now likes to spend his days at the hospital helping other amputee’s with their trauma and teaching them how to use their prosthetic arm. More specifically he is an orderly for the amputee division in the hospital.
Interviewing Gregory was a great idea, because he was very kind and he opened up to me, as if I’ve known him forever. He told me it did affect his marriage but only because he let it, he started treating his wife differently because he was always depressed and angry. However once he got his life back on track he told me there wasn’t a day that went by that he wouldn’t apologize for being the monster that he was and that he loved her for staying with him during that period. When I asked him if he would like to do what he used to be able to do, he gave me this look, and then he smiled. He told me that their isn’t a day that goes by that he wouldn’t like to be back in the shop working with the metal. He misses the smell of oils burning, the noise of metal clinging and of course the ability to use both hands. When I mentioned neuro prosthetics, he interrupted me halfway trough my question and told me that he is waiting, waiting for the day they call him to tell him he has been accepted for trials. He told me that it might be the only chance he has in getting his old life back.
After having interviewed Gregory I could say that an amputee goes trough a huge change in their life, it is almost as if they have been reborn, yet with a deficiency. They need to learn to live a completely different life then the one they used to. Most amputee’s sadly become unemployed because they can no longer perform as they used to. This how ever is something that can be change with neuro prosthetics. With this technology nothing has to change, they will simply be modified instead of reborn. From what Gregory told me he would’ve preferred that much more.
For Eric, Gregory and many others like them neuro-prosthetics is the key to happiness. It is simply the only way that they can do as they have always done. Yet it has not been fully developed and what I don’t understand is; why not? The technology to make it possible is there, so what’s stopping engineers from creating it? Money and funding is the answer. Since their are slightly more than 10 million amputee’s, they get neglected most of the time. This means that not many donations are being made for amputee’s, so the needs to advance can’t be purchased. The miracle that this branch of medical research needs is a man of high value to become an amputee. Then he will personally fund the advancements and a working neuro-prosthetic can come about sooner then expected.
Whitacre, Jay. “Neuro-prosthetic Implants Powered by Electrode Arrays.” Web. 20 Apr. 2015.<http://ezproxy.dawsoncollege.qc.ca:2207/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=9413b332-3032-40cf-9d9f-7c204031f789%40sessionmgr198&vid=3&hid=113>.
“Accessibility Links.” Bionic Arm. Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <http://cnp.epfl.ch/op/edit/page-87258.html>.
Leblanc, Maurice. “Amputee Statistics.” Web. 20 Apr. 2015. <https://web.stanford.edu/class/engr110/2011/LeBlanc-03a.pdf>.