Amazing Science That Has Given Life Back to My Arm

Article excerpt

Byline: BARRY WIGMORE

BIONIC hands and arms could change the lives of thousands of paralysed people now that an American company has been given the go-ahead for mass production.

The Freehand System, developed by NeuroCon-trol Corporation, of Cleveland, Ohio, uses cutting-edge technology to thread wires inside patients' arms to stimulate paralysed muscles back to life.

Now the company, which sells its bionics to a British hospital participating in the research and development of the system, believes the technology can be improved within ten years to help people with spinal cord injuries walk again.

It may even help paralysed Superman star Christopher Reeve.

Eight Britons paralysed by back injuries have already had the system surgically installed. The

first was Roger Fenn, 45, who works for BT in Southampton. He broke his neck when he fell off a roof during DIY repairs and was paralysed in both arms and both legs.

'It's absolutely brilliant,' he says.

'For the first time in 14 years, I can write with a pen, brush my own teeth, and open my front door.' The system was fitted two years ago and Roger spent months learning how to transmit messages to his hands. Now the skills are second nature to him.

'There are so many ordinary, everyday things I can do now that I couldn't do before,' he says.

Roger, who has been married for 23 years and has two children, says it has made life much easier

for his wife too because he can now help around the house.

Doctors in the spinal injuries unit at Salisbury General Hospital want to help a dozen more people like Roger. But so far the NHS has been unwilling to pay the [pounds sterling]25,000 it costs to buy each system, install it and train patients to use it.

It has been up to a small charity in Salisbury, the Inspire Foundation, to raise the funds.

Inspire's director, Jack Gardner,

says: 'Now that the American Food And Drugs Administration has approved the system, I hope it might be available on the NHS within a couple of years. …