Thanks to the Alfred Mann Foundation, a Marine Reclaims What he Lost

A retired staff sergeant is getting a second chance at a normal life.

Staff Sergeant James Sides was out on patrol when he encountered an IED. This was his second tour of Afghanistan, and Sides was trained for these situations. Unfortunately, even the best training can’t predict every possible scenario. During the attempt at diffusing, the IED detonated. The blast hit James and knocked him over.

As he reeled to stand, he discovered that his forearm had been broken and his hand was missing completely. In his words, his hand was “shredded to the wrist”.

Recovery from this kind of trauma is a slow process and patients often struggle with the missing appendages. That struggle makes everyday tasks like getting a glass of water for yourself a constant test of patience and fortitude. For James Sides, the yearning to return to normalcy was answered with a gift from the Alfred Mann Foundation. Rogers and Cowan Executive Vice President Steve Doctrow helped to coordinate the exchange, and to publicize this amazing accomplishment.

Sides received a robotic arm, which he controls through the movement of his muscles. Only seven people in the world have this technology, which looks to be a form of telepathy when one first observes it. It actually uses a small radio transceiver that was surgically embedded into Sides’ muscles. As his muscles move, the transceiver translates those movements into data the hand can read. This all happens in an instant, but it can take time to concentrate on a task before anything can happen.

Sides jokes that he has the Luke Skywalker hand, but this brilliant piece of machinery will revolutionize the care for patients that have debilitating physical handicaps. There is speculation that the future of medicine is in bionics. The truth is that these developments are unprecedented and may very well prove to be a viable long-term solution.

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