Bionic arm op soldier Andrew Garthwaite recovering
Published: 31st May 2012 21:05:18
A Tyneside soldier who lost an arm told how he felt like he was getting it back after undergoing surgery to prepare him to be fitted with a bionic limb.
Cpl Andrew Garthwaite, of South Tyneside was hurt in Afghanistan when a Taliban grenade took off his right arm.
The 24-year-old underwent major surgery at the start of a process to prepare him to be fitted with an arm he will be able to control with his brain.
He said recovery had been painful but felt he was making progress.
Cpl Garthwaite spent about seven hours in surgery in a hospital in Austria earlier this year.
He said: "By the time I came round I was quite groggy and when I first work up I actually thought that I was still in Afghanistan for some reason because the last time I was put under was the time when this first happened.
"It was quite a frightening experience first waking up and I was screaming at the nurses and stuff thinking "where am I?"
He had been badly injured by a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade in the attack in September 2010 which killed one of his comrades.
He has already used a bionic arm which allowed him to do many basic tasks again. But it has relied on Cpl Garthwaite needing to flex his back or chest muscle to achieve a single, robotic movement.
He was then deemed eligible for the pioneering Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR) surgery in Vienna, which was the first step on the process to receiving the arm he will control with his mind.
Surgeons worked out which nerves from his shoulder joint operated his arm and hand, isolated them and then rewired them into his chest.
Cpl Garthwaite said his recovery had been painful but he felt he was getting his arm back, especially when he rode his specially adapted motorbike.
He said: "It feels like I have got three arms - so one is on the bike, one that is moving and one that is up here.
"It is so weird to feel, it is unbelievable."
As the nerves grow, Cpl Garthwaite's mind will work out which nerves do what and will learn how to control those nerves. He will then be able to control his bionic arm in such a way that it will become intuitive.
Cpl Garthwaite returned with his parents to his old school, Bede Burn Primary, be presented with a cheque on behalf of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) after the pupils raised money to support the families of wounded soldiers.
His father Paul said: "It still hurts to see his body the way it is but that's what he's got and that's what we live with and that's what we go forward with."
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Bionic arm op soldier Andrew Garthwaite recovering. [Online] (Updated 31 May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news.php/1432148-Bionic-arm-op-soldier-Andrew-Garthwaite-recovering [Accessed 18th May 2013]
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