Monday, November 22, 2010

Disabled vets in Texas try out new kind of prosthetic leg


SAN ANTONIO -- Wounded warriors in San Antonio are the first to try out a new kind of prosthetic leg. These amputees are walking with ease thanks to new technology.

Prosthetics have taken a huge step forward with this new, man-made leg. It’s turning some combat veterans into the bionic man.

The Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center is a place where wounded warriors come to find healing and wholeness. It houses some of the latest technology to help amputees, including the PowerFoot BiOM, a bionic lower leg system.

The PowerFoot uses sensors and a motor to propel the foot through each step, keeping simple walking from being a drain on people who’ve lost a leg.

Army Sgt. Jourdan Smith lost his leg after he was shot in Iraq three years ago. He’s been wearing one of the new prostheses.

“It felt like a real leg again,” he said. “It just helps out a lot. It takes the strain off my back, my hips. I don’t feel as tired at the end of the day.”

Over the past four months, a dozen patients have been fitted with the PowerFoot.

“It’s very exciting,” exclaimed Jason Wilken, PT, Ph.D., the director of the Military Performance Laboratory at the CFI. “I think one of the rewarding things is when we see our patients first get fit and they first turn on the power. Our patients report feeling something that they haven’t felt in years.”

Many of the Iraq and Afghan war veterans ending up as amputees are young, with decades of life ahead of them. A high-functioning foot is critical to their long-term health.

“One of the big things I notice is that I don’t look for handicapped parking anymore,” commented amputee Justin Lynn. “I can park anywhere in the lot, do my business in the store and get out and save that spot for somebody who needs it.”

Right now, this new leg is only in use in the military, but soon, it will be commercially available to other amputees, too.