Healing Heroes: Wounded Warrior Outruns The Odds



HISTORY:  The history of prosthetics dates as far back as the Egyptians.  They first pioneered prosthetic technology.  Their prosthetic limbs were made of fiber, but it is believed that they were worn as more of a sense of “wholeness” rather than function.  Scientists did, however, discover what is thought to be the world’s first prosthetic toe from an Egyptian mummy and it appeared to be functional.  An artificial leg for below-knee amputee made of bronze and iron with a wooden core dates back to 300 B.C. 

During the Dark Ages, from 476 to 1000, most prostheses were made to hide injuries sustained in battle.  For example, a knight would be fitted for a prosthetic that would hold a shield.  Outside of battle, only the wealthy were fitted for a peg leg or hand hook for functionality.  During the Renaissance (1400s to 1800s), prosthetics were made of steel, iron, copper, and wood.  During the 1500s, modern amputation procedures were introduced. An above-knee device, that was a kneeling peg leg, and foot prosthesis, which had a fixed position, knee lock control, adjustable harness, and other features that are used today, was invented.  By the late 1600s, the first non-locking below-knee prosthesis was invented and later it became the blueprint for current joint and corset devices.  The use of aluminum instead of steel in prosthetics was introduced in 1912.  The lengthy history of prosthetics brings us today, where the advent of microprocessors, patient-molded devices, computer chips, and robotics are advancing prostheses even more.  (Source: www.amputee-coalition.org

REASONS FOR AMPUTATION:  From October 1, 2001 until June 1, 2006, 5,684 people during the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq were recorded as having major limb injuries.  Of these, 423 had major limb amputation.  (Source: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)  There are many reasons why an amputation is necessary.  The most common is poor circulation due to damage of the arteries.  Without adequate blood flow, the body’s cells cannot get enough oxygen and nutrients they need from the bloodstream.  Other causes for amputation include:  thickening of nerve tissue (neuroma), severe injury, cancerous tumor in the bone, serious infection, and frostbite.  The amputation typically requires a hospital stay of five to 14 days, depending on complications and the surgery.  The procedure will vary depending on the limb.  Amputation can be done under general anesthesia or with spinal anesthesia.  During amputation, the surgeon will remove the diseased tissue and crushed bone.  Then they smooth uneven areas of the bone, seal off blood vessels and nerves, and then cut and shape muscles so the limb will be able to have a prosthetic. The prosthetic is designed and fitted by a specialist.  The process involves: measuring the stump and the healthy opposite limb, making a plaster mold, fashioning a socket, attaching the shaft, and aligning the prosthesis.(Source:  www.webmd.com)

WHAT TO EXPECT:  Prosthesis has developed greatly over the course of history.  Returning to an active lifestyle is often very important to many wounded warriors, according to the Brooke Army Medical Center.  Because technology has improved so much, highly motivated and healthy people with a prosthetic can return to their active lifestyles.  The loss of a body part can be emotionally upsetting.  For most, it takes time to adapt to changes in appearance and the ability to function.  Doctors will recommend that the patient get counseling and remind them that they will adapt to the situation and find new ways of doing daily activities.  A helpful resource for patients is The Amputee Coalition of America, www.amputee-coalition.org/index.html.  Quality of life is related to attitude and expectations, not just using a prosthetic.  (Source: www.assh.org)

For further information about the Center for the Intrepid visit:  http://www.bamc.amedd.army.mil/departments/orthopaedic/cfi

For further information about the TEAM X-T.R.E.M.E. visit:  http://www.team-x-treme.org/#/home/4553127912