April 25, 2013
A Technological Advancement Because Of Human Compassion
Picture this, if you can; you are walking down the dirt road to the market. As you think of what you need to purchase for the next week (and how little you have to do so), you see ahead of you a small group, maybe three or four, struggling. One person is on the ground while the other three hold him or her down. The struggle is nothing new. Your home land has been war torn for years. You have become desensitized to the violence. As you move closer, you realize that this group of three is going to chop off the struggling human’s leg as warning or retribution or whatever.
Now imagine seeing that daily. Imagine growing up in a country where seeing people with missing limbs is not out of the ordinary. Imagine that these people walk around without some limbs, not even prosthetics because they are so painful. And what if some of those amputees were loved ones? This was the reality for one MIT doctoral student named David Sengeh. As CNN reported, Sengeh is part of a major movement to improve prosthetic limbs.
Sengeh is from Sierra Leone, a country with a violent past. From 1991 to 2002, Sierra Leone was the home of a violent war that claimed the lives and limbs of thousands. In fact, a common atrocity was to hack off people’s limbs, which obviously scarred them physically and psychologically. Not only that, but they rarely had access to proper prosthetics.
So, Sengeh has used his educational opportunities to study and address this issue not only for his own people, but for amputees worldwide. He spent his childhood surrounded by violence and pain and now is using his education to help alleviate at least the pain.
Sengeh is a doctoral student at MIT in the Biomechatronics group. Biomechatronics looks at how technology can be used to enhance human physical capabilities. Obviously, prosthetic and bionic limbs fall into this category.
As CNN explains, “Sengeh has found a way to load MRI scans of a patient’s limbs onto a multilayer 3D computer to customize the socket design — a development that could have a huge impact…’I think it will change the whole industry,” says Sengeh, who is from Sierra Leone. “You just send us a minimum set of data and we will ship you a comfortable prosthetic socket,’ he adds.”
In the recent past, I have written about prosthetic and bionic limbs and technology, particularly bionic hands, and the impact of these developments on amputees. It seems that Sengeh’s research only contributes more to the discussion. If doctors, scientists, students, and researchers can find a way to help amputees feel no pain, and also feel more comfortable with themselves, then that’s a technological win as well as an emotional and physical win.
Sengeh is doing this to help his countrymen. He wants to help a country that suffered greatly from the war and its residuals. Helping amputees is just one way he does this. While at Harvard, he created his first Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) called Global Minimum, which is a group that encourages Africans to solve their own problems. He also launched “Innovate Salone”, a mentoring initiative aiming to inspire innovation and self-sufficiency in his native country.
David Sengeh clearly wants to heal those wounds. Each of these is an inspiring start.
Image Credit: Photos.com