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I know you’re excited to get to the second part of Troy’s interview so I won’t be long.
If you haven’t checked out the first part of the interview, hop on over here to get caught up. The world of prosthetics has played an integral part in helping better the lives of many amputees. Troy is one of the good guys – leading cutting edge research into bettering the health of soliders through technology.
Without further ado, I give you part 2…
Q: Of what you are able to share with us, what sort of advancements do you see on the horizon for this field?
I see a time when people will not be able to tell the difference between someone who is using a prosthetic device, and someone using a biological limb. Think along the lines of the arm used by Del Spooner, the character played by Will Smith in the movie iRobot. I anticipate this same technology being use for lower limbs as well. It may sound strange now, but since the majority of amputations are a result of vascular disease, the use of prosthetic devices may become something of an elective procedure versus a life in a wheelchair or using a walker or cane.
Research we are currently funding includes robotic and powered ankles which will provide for significant improvement in what’s called the gait cycle, or walking. Powered and microcomputer processor controlled knees are already on the market, but are being made more rugged and capable through research funded through TATRC. This will allow people using these devices to utilize them in adverse & extreme environments such as water, mud, sand, etc. The majority of lower limb prosthetic devices are currently what I call “reactionary”. That is, they operate according to gravity and swing force. Prosthetics lower limbs do not currently operate according to user intent, that is, the joints and part of the limb move as the user wishes them to move, for example, rolling your ankle or crossing your legs without using your hands while sitting down. Through currently funded research, it is possible that a lower extremity prosthesis user may be able to control their device(s) exactly as someone controls their biological limbs: through impulses that travel from the brain through the nervous system to the muscles, or actuators.
Interestingly, as these devices become more advanced, and public awareness and attention is heightened, increasing numbers of users chose to not wear what is called a cosmesis, or cosmetic covering that helps disguise their device. Many people are wearing their devices in the open, as if to say “this is me, this is part of who I am.” And I think that’s a good thing. However, for someone who chooses to wear a cosmetic covering, there are numerous ways that covering can look. It can be made to look so much like the limb that was lost that it’s amazing. The wearer can have a tattoo painted on, or they can have the covering made and painted in any design an artist is capable of creating.
Q: How do you feel about the barring of double amputee Oscar Pistorius, from the upcoming Olympic Games?
I can’t speak to any specifics of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Pistorius’ situation, but I do think that the fact that he is capable of being competitive at such a high level is a testament to the prosthetics and orthotics technology being developed for those needing it, but also the spirit and never-quit attitude of many people who face significant daily challenges such as these.
Q: Any other comments?
I’ve yet to meet a military amputee that has ever claimed to be a hero, or anything other than just a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine doing their job.
Most people that do “heroic” things don’t think of them as heroic, whatever the “thing” was, they’ll say that they were just doing what needed to be done, or what they were told to do, or what anyone else would have done. But a hero is also someone that others may look up to for motivation, or as an example.
1. a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.
2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act.
Some pro athletes will tell you that they don’t want to be role-models or hero’s, but those people have never understood that it’s not up to them – it’s up to the people that look up to them. Fortunately, most professional athletes are thankful for their gifts and realize how incredibly fortunate they are to be able to “play games” at such a high level. They are great with their fans, and live quiet, mature, responsible lives, and are great role models.
One thing the definition above does not say is that the best heroes are the ones that are humble, that do not seek acknowledgement or attention for themselves of their deeds. Today’s military members show courage and ability everyday. They do what they’re told to do, which requires bravery and nobility – dignity and integrity. Do they act up, get rowdy, cause problems and get in trouble? Of course they do, they’re not perfect. But they are heroes nevertheless, and luckily it’s a label that can’t be self-applied. Those who do their duty with courage, ability, bravery, nobility, and without running, are heroes.
What great insight into what it really means to serve. It has been an absolute pleasure interviewing Troy and getting thoughts on his work and the philosophy behind it. Although peace time is the ideal, with people like Troy helping our soldiers, we can feel a little better during war time. Don’t forget, if you want a regular look inside the mind of Troy, follow him on Twitter!
Do you know someone that is doing great things combining health and technology? Please let me know by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – I would love to hear about it!