Meet Les Baugh, a man of the hard luck. We all make mistakes, but some of them can lead to tragic consequences. 40 years ago, when Les was just 17 years old, he was fooling around with his stepbrother. The last one challenged him to a race that ended with a big tragedy. Baugh found himself in a set of power lines. Electric shock was that powerful – the doctors didn’t give him a chance to live to his 21st birthday. Moreover – both hands were amputated and the surgeons thought his legs won’t recover and he will be unable to walk. “I didn’t stand a chance,” he says. “Everything I had going was gone.”
But with strong will to life, Les soon made his first steps. Now he had to learn living without hands. Regular manipulations became a torture. He needed help all the time with his regular daily routine and somebody had to be there with him all day long.
And now, 40 years after he received another chance to start living a normal life again. Thanks to Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory he was given two robotic arms that are controlled with his thoughts only.
The prothesis was worked out considering all his needs and requirements. First it was hard for Baugh to learn how to use the robotic limbs, but now he can operate them pretty fast. And the accuracy is impressive – grabbing a ping pong ball is not a big deal for him.
To reach these shocking though impressive results, Les had to go under a serious surgery, which is called ‘targeted muscle innervation.’ Dr. Albert Chi, a trauma surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, says that surgery of this kind is a complete innovation. It is called to reassign nerves that once controlled the arm and the hand. They are lately connected to the prothetic arms and guarantee total control over the construction.
Les Baugh had to wait until total recovery after the surgery to try his new limbs on. The team of scientists analyzed the data of pattern recognition algorithms to identify how exactly his muscles work. Later they programmed the robotic arms to repeat all those movements.
But that huge construction still needed additional support to keep natural position. This is why the scientists added custom sockets that had to be attached to shoulders and torso. Even Baugh was impressed by his own look. He said he somehow found himself in another reality, but was ready to go further and did whatever the team demanded.
And there were too many tests before they could actually start trying new arms in action. In just 10 days after the experiment started – Les Baugh showed impressive results. He managed to move cups, balls and even shelves. By the way, the speed of his movements was way much higher than anyone could expect.
At this moment, his arms work pretty similar to human anatomy. Les is capable of repeating all the moves he performed with his real hands while he still had them. Scientists believe they can soon send poor man back home with fully functioning limbs that can make his life great again.