Smiling Louisville Fan Receives Bionic Hands
April 22, 2013

Smiling Louisville Fan Receives Bionic Hands

It’s a story that’s a little bit Star Wars and a little bit Apple promo; Jason Koger is the world’s first double amputee patient to receive a pair of bionic hands controlled by an iPhone app. While Koger can control these prosthetics without the use of the app, including motions such as rotating his wrists or grasping things, the specially built iPhone app allows him to customize the way he grasps things, giving him much of the same use of his hands that he once had before his accident in 2008.

As he was riding his four-wheeler along his Grandfather’s land, Koger came in contact with a downed power line, sending 7,200 volts of electricity through his body. He woke up three days later from an induced coma in a hospital bed and was told the doctors had to amputate both of his hands to save his life. In an interview with CNN, Koger said he was interested in getting back to life as usual quickly and began using prosthetic hands. His first hands helped him, but they weren’t much like his natural hands.

“It’s like I’m carrying a tool box, but only have one tool,” said Koger.

“You can’t use a wrench for everything.”

Since then he’s been given a pair of bionic hands created by UK company Touch Bionics. Called the “i-Limb Ultra Revolution,” these hands provide “unparalleled dexterity and control, enabling wearers to more easily perform activities of daily living and thus increase their quality of life,” according to Touch Bionics CEO Ian Stevens.

Here’s what makes these hands so special. In addition to the paired iPhone app, the i-Limb hands have five individually powered fingers and a fully rotatable thumb, giving Koger much more dexterity.

The i-Limb hands also have an “auto-grasp” feature which prevents Koger from accidentally dropping smooth objects such as a can of soda, an apple, or presumably his iPhone.

A beaming Koger showed off his new hands to Dr. Sanjay Gupta last Saturday and explained how the iPhone app pairs with the i-Limb prosthetics.

Koger’s first demo? The companion app allows wearers to customize their own grips for tasks or activities they perform frequently, such as picking up a drill or shooting pool. Like a true fan, Koger couldn’t wait to show off the L-shaped hand sign for the University of Louisville.

He’s got it stored front and center on the companion iPhone app.

This is a clear example of the kind of optimism Koger seems to embrace. In the video before the Sanjay Gupta interview, Koger is seen smiling with his daughters and his wife before the accident.

That smile is still present in the pictures post procedure; Koger is there in the hospital bed with his wife standing by his side, all grins.

It’s enough to inspire even the most soured cynic, really.

Koger told CNN that the i-Limb prosthetics can help him complete many everyday tasks, but he’s not ready to completely give up his old set of hands just yet. The new bionic limbs aren’t waterproof, so they’re not yet suited for every task. They have allowed him to do one thing which he had been previously unable to do since his accident:

“For the first time in five years I can hold my daughter’s hand,” said Koger in his interview.

“I can’t tell you what a gift that feels like.”

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