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Bionic Hand Changes Life of US Soldier


The lives of thousands of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers are changed forever when they lose arms or legs in roadside bomb attacks in Iraq. When they return home, the wounded American military personnel are often fitted with the latest artificial limbs. VOA's Melinda Smith has the story of one U.S. Army sergeant who has adapted to a prosthetic hand straight out of science fiction.

Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs, explode without warning, and when they do, their victims are killed, or maimed for life.

Twenty-seven-year-old U.S. Army Sergeant Juan Arredondo was severely injured in 2005 when an IED exploded near his vehicle in Iraq. He thought he was going to die.

"I told my soldiers, 'Say goodbye to my kids for me. Tell them I love them'," he recalled.

Sergeant Arredondo was taken to an Army hospital where his life was saved, but not his hand. He thought his life was ruined. "I was emotionally, physically, and mentally just traumatized for a pretty long time. I just didn't know what to expect. I was worried about how am I going to take care of my wife and kids?"

Many soldiers in Sergeant Arredondo's condition would be sent to hospitals such as Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. There soldiers are fitted with prosthetic hands, arms and legs.

But a new, highly sophisticated bionic hand, recently invented in Britain, is now available.

It looks and almost feels like a real human hand. The patient's mind sends signals through muscles to little motors inside the prosthetic hand. Sergeant Arredondo is one of the first to use it.

Troy Farnsworth of Hanger Orthopedic Group fitted him with what's called the “I-Limb.”

"As soon as we put it on Juan, he smiled. It was the 'wow' [exclamation of a pleasant surprise] factor."

Sergeant Arredondo can go shopping, use the bank's ATM, and drive a car.

Jessica Arredondo says the I-Limb has brought life back to her husband. "He's my 'superman’," she says.

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