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Bionic breakthrough in prosthetic limbs

April 26, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
There's a much bigger demand for artificial limbs mostly driven by the growing numbers of injured U.S. veterans. And as the demand grows so does the level of technology. Now two local men are benefitting from this real-life bionic breakthrough.

Former L.A. firefighter Tim Larson, 43, was inside fixing up old cars when he says an electrical device sparked an experimental, alternative fuel and it exploded in Sylmar last August. He lost parts of his right arm and leg.

"Tried to push myself up to stand and startedto fall again, looked down, I saw my right hand was just missing, basically, " said Larson.

Rescuers thought Larson would surely die.

"They just triaged me like 'He ain't going to make it,'" said Larson.

Less than a year later, Larson, silk-screen artist and father of three, survived against all odds. And today he's one of two local men to be the first on the West Coast to receive the Michelangelo Hand, the very latest in prosthetic technology.

"It's allowed me to get back into life with my kids," said Larson. "It's allowed to do things that I haven't done or been able to do since the accident."

Entertainment attorney Andrew Carter lost his left hand in an electrical accident in 1984. His first artificial limb was basically a hook.

"This has changed my life from the minute that I put it on," said Carter.

All Carter has to do is flex his arm muscles and he can switch the five articulating digits into different grip functions.

"Not only are you able to rotate the wrist, flex and extend the wrist, but it has a neutral mode," said Ryan Russell, Hanger Clinic.

"It's one more thing to make it look natural," said Larson.

Having a prosthetic hand that looks and functions as close to human as technically possible in terms of being able to take care of yourself, or even work, but Larson and Carter both agree that's it's the little things that make the most difference.

"For the first time since 8th grade I bought a bag of peanuts and ate them out of the shell because now I can crush the shells and eat them," said Carter. "In the grand scheme of things, that's a little thing -- but then again, it isn't."

"I'm going to learn how to throw a baseball. I'm going to learn some other things with it," said Larson.

The Hanger Clinic says the Michelangelo runs about $90,000. Many times, it's covered by insurance.


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