Retired Staff Sergeant First to Receive Mechanical Hand

A retired staff sergeant from Colorado is the world’s first recipient of a major medical breakthrough. Sergeant James Sides lost his hand while disarming an IED he found during his second tour in Afghanistan. Sides went blind in one eye after the bomb detonated close to his body. The blast also took his right hand.

When Sides returned home, he made a healthy recovery but he found basic tasks to be difficult. The Alfred Mann Foundation, which specializes in testing revolutionary robotics for medical use, found Sides and offered to give him a new device they’d created. They surgically implanted a device within Sides’ forearm that reads his muscle movements.

That device sends a signal to the robotic hand that he wears, which allows him to move each fingertip individually. He says he still has to look at an object and think about doing something before it happens, but Sides can manipulate the world around him in ways he thought were lost to him.

Opening a bottle of water, reaching for his wallet and more everyday tasks are far more manageable now that he has a hand that can move with him.

Prosthetics are a tricky piece of technology because it’s difficult to replicate the kind of motion that we have naturally. Even Sides is limited to three ranges of motion. The good news is that this technology is deployable now, and is beginning to get the publicity it deserves thanks to the work of Steve Doctrow and the team at Rogers & Cowan. This test includes six other individuals, but the hope is that this technology will soon see circulation in the general public.