A young British man, James Young, had his life changed forever when he fell under a train in London in 2012. The horrific accident resulted in James losing his left arm and lower left leg, but he remembers very little about that fateful day.
“My memory stops at leaving the house”, explains 25-year-old James, in a two-part documentary which is available to view on online channel BBC3. “Apparently I was walking too fast to the edge of the platform. I was just surprised when I woke up without two of my limbs. My arm was full of train oils and grit so they couldn’t save it.”
James is an avid fan of computer games and had taught himself to use a video-game controller with his teeth and one hand. Consequently, later on, following the accident, he responded to an advert by games company Konami, who were seeking an amputee interested in wearing a futuristic prosthetic limb inspired by the game Metal Gear Solid, one of the world’s best-selling computer games. James reasoned that his chances were good, as there were unlikely to be many other amputee gamers applying. As it turned out, more than sixty people applied for the ad, so James was thrilled to be selected. He saw it as an incredible opportunity to rebuild a part of his body.
The bespoke artificial limb is fitted with a 3D printed hand controlled by sensors which detect tiny muscle movements in James’s back. It is considerably more sophisticated and dextrous than the rudimentary National Health Service prosthetic he was given following his accident.
The technologically advanced arm costs over a hundred thousand dollars. James has to wear a harness around his body which allows electrical impulses from nerves in his back to be sent into his arm. But he does experience problems with the prosthetic, as it is a little too long and heavy, and the bionic hand does not always do what he wants it to do.
“I am happy with how it looks”, James says after trying out his new arm. “I was hoping it would move me on into accepting my disability but, when I put it on, I still don’t have control.”
The documentary shows that the problems are eventually fixed by Konami engineers and how James has the arm customized. Lighting is added to suit his mood, alongside a laser torch, sports watch, and USB port so that he can charge his mobile phone.
As he acclimates himself to the arm, James enjoys the response of the public when they see him. “The arm is going to transform the way people look at me”, he says, “Although some do think that they are meeting a cyborg.”
Photo courtesy of www.independent.co.uk