Thursday, 6 February 2014

More Medical Miracles - Towards the Bionic Man

Everyday we hear about new advances in medical science. The pace is simply staggering, and I might add,  truly inspiring. Today I came across an article that once again made me sit back and marvel at the wonders we are capable of achieving. A Danish man, who lost  a limb in an accident, was able to touch and feel items with the finger tips of a prosthesis through sensors attached to the nerves in his upper arm. Granted, this was a trial and we are a long way from amputees receiving such prosthesis on a regular basis, but the potential is there.

What a game changer this could be. On a personal level, I know what it's like to lose full use of an important part of your body. At the age of eighteen I lost eighty percent of the vision in my right in a freak   accident. Even with the use of a corrective lens my vision is far from perfect. It's a frustrating experience, and I'm sure anyone who's been through a similar experience can attest to this. That's why  stories such as the one above fill me with hope. We live in an age where anything is possible.

I truly believe, within a few years, all those who have suffered through an amputation or an injury such as mine will be able to look to medical science for answers. This is, to say the least, encouraging. Obviously such procedures will be expensive at first, and this is where I arrive at my main concern. It is imperative, that as such procedures become readily available, they are also offered to a wide cross section of society. Government health systems need to find ways to help all individuals in need of help.

If we fail to help amputee's and other similarly afflicted individuals in their quest to regain full use of their body and senses, we are being incredibly short sighted. Let's look at an extreme case as an example. An individual who is a double arm amputee may be largely reliant on the health and welfare system throughout the remainder of their lives. However, if they are fitted with prosthesis with full sensory capabilities, they can live normal lives. They won't have to rely on assistance, and they can become full and productive members of society. They will be given their lives back.

We've all read about the disconnect many soldiers returning from combat feel when they return to civilian life. This problem is compounded when these veterans are faced with the added stress of returning as amputees. Quite often they suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, and this has lead to an alarming incidence of suicide amongst our veterans. This is is devastating for both them and their families. If these veterans were fitted with replacement limbs that not only offered full range of movement, but also returned lost sensation, the psychological implications would be extremely positive.

For me, the question is not if we should do everything to assist anyone who can benefit from such advances in medical science, but how we make it a reality. We truly live in exciting times. What do you think?  Should we do everything we can to help? Can society afford not to?