The victims of the Boston Marathon continue to be in our thoughts. Many survivors must learn how to live with out a piece of themselves: most often, their legs.
In this video, a Marine (bilateral leg amputee, wounded in combat) tells a woman who lost her legs in the explosions: “I’m telling you, with all my heart, you are going to be more independent than you ever were.”
Those words got me thinking.
These elite athletes and their hard core supporters are survivors and proved it long before race day. Now, on their journey to independence, they will learn about the ever improving world of prosthesis. The technology is here now that amputees can accomplish so much more today than they ever could in the past.
Jarem Frye created the XT9 prosthetic leg that allows above-knee amputees to snowboard! Having created this innovative prosthetic knee, to achieve the previously unimaginable, has earned him the title of ” hero among amputees and prosthetics experts”. This energy-storing knee makes other sports, like wake-boarding, climbing and skateboarding, possible.
The inspiration for the XT9 came from Frye himself. He lost his leg when he was 14, to bone cancer, right when he was interested in learning to snowboard. He tried adapted skiing but when he couldn’t use telemark skis with his prosthetic, he decided to make one himself. He’s been perfecting his model until he finally came up with the XT9.
Frye isn’t the only prosthetic wearer turned designer.
Hugh Herr has a truly remarkable story. I couldn’t do it justice in these few words, but you can read more here. Herr lost his legs in a climbing accident when he was 17, but he was less concerned by his injuries as he was by the volunteer rescuer who died while searching for him. It’s in his honor that Herr dedicates his work to finding better prostheses. In this effort, he pursued a degree from MIT and Harvard and now is director of the Biomechatronics Group at the MIT Media Lab.
Herr designs his own artificial legs for every occasion for optimal functionality. Climbing is his passion so he. of course, needs climbing feet. “My rock climbing feet are the size of baby feet. They’re very, very small and very, very short so I can get the center of my body over my feet on a vertical wall.”
Herr believes that we will soon see the body and prosthetic merge. He envisions titanium shaft will connect with the residual bone in a permanent artificial limb that has electrical connections to the nervous system.
My biological body will degrade in time due to normal, age-related degeneration. But the artificial part of my body improves in time because I can upgrade. … So I predict that when I’m 80 years old, I’ll be able to walk with less energy than is required of a person who has biological legs, I’ll be more stable, and I’ll probably be able to run faster. … The artificial part of my body is, in some sense, immortal. —Hugh Herr