Bionic arm: soldier can control prosthesis with his thoughts
Cpl Andrew Garthwaite had nervous system rewired after losing right arm in Afghanistan
A SOLDIER who lost his right arm in Afghanistan is believed to be the first person in the UK to be fitted with a bionic arm he can control with his thoughts.
Cpl Andrew Garthwaite, 26, from South Tyneside, was badly injured in Helmand in September 2010 when a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade took off his right arm and killed one of his comrades.
He has since undergone surgery in Austria, which involved the rewiring of his nervous system, and has spent months learning how to use the new limb.
During the procedure, called 'Targeted Muscle Reinnervation', surgeons at the Medical University of Vienna took nerve endings from his shoulder, which would have run down to his hand, and rewired these into his chest muscles.
This left Garthwaite with the sensation of a hand growing inside his chest. He has had to learn to use his hand again, with electrodes sending signals into the bionic arm so that he can control the prosthesis, which was developed by bionics company Otto Bock in Vienna.
Garthwaite told the BBC he had been "lost for words" when he learnt that he was the first person from the UK to undergo this cutting-edge bionics technique and said he was "honoured" to have been chosen. He said it was a "total weird feeling" to suddenly be able to feel with his new fingers and thumb, and that he was looking forward to making a success of his new life with a bionic arm.
Garthwaite added that it looks "very natural" and people generally do not notice that it is a prosthesis, but are often surprised as it makes robotic sounds when it moves.
But he has to be careful. If he thinks of moving his little finger too quickly, his whole hand rotates a full 360 degrees - a move he describes as his "party trick". ·