Edmund Rath, a 53-year-old from Austria, wants to do simple things such as brush his teeth and slice bread.
Most people take such activities for granted but not Rath, who lost his arm just below the shoulder in a truck accident last year that ended his career as a builder. That bad luck was followed by a stroke of fortune.
He was chosen by Austrian surgeons as the first person to have a single operation in May to install a click-on prosthesis that the brain controls with signals to the missing hand.
The procedure, known as ‘osseointegration’ (OI), involved implanting a metal rod into the bone of his residual limb. The rod has an external attachment that anchors his prosthesis to his upper arm bone.
During the operation – which was screened live to an industry congress in Vienna – doctors also took nerves once used to control his hand and connected them to muscles in his upper arm, a procedure called ‘Targeted Muscle Reinnervation’.
Now when he imagines moving his hand, the muscles in his shoulder contract and are read by electrodes in his prosthesis that does the intended movement.
Rath’s challenge is to build up strength and learn the skills to make the so-called ‘simple’ activities possible.