The first time he tried it on; tears welled up in his eyes.
“It felt like my real foot,” remembered Vietnam Veteran Steve Hendrick. “It was a very good day.”
The “it” Hendrick was referring to is the iWalk BiOM, a cutting edge piece of technology that is the world’s first bionic ankle system that utilizes robotics to replicate the muscles and tendons to replace the action of the foot, Achilles tendon and calf muscle. This advanced prosthetic technology, clinically proven to normalize walking, will improve the quality of life for Veterans with below the knee amputations. On December 8, 2011, Hendrick became the first Mississippi Veteran chosen to receive a BiOM and felt honored on behalf of all Veterans who served in Vietnam.
“I want this day to send a message to all disabled Veterans,” said Hendrick. “Never lose hope.”
The BiOM costs between $30,000 and $50,000 and is designed for Veterans who want to continue to live a very active life. It runs on a lithium polymer battery and must be charged daily.
“Funding is not an issue,” said Cassandra Hall, Chief of Prosthetics at the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center. “Medical requirements and activity level are some of the issues we look at.”
Hendrick lost his left leg in 2000 after years of struggling with blood clots. Doctors were forced to amputate when gangrene set in.
“You don’t realize what you got, until it’s gone,” lamented Hendrick.
Using Bluetooth technology, representatives from BiOM, Dana Samocha and Stephanie Porter, along Orthotics/Prosthetics technician Gaylord Collins from the Jackson VA, programmed Hendrick’s BiOM with an Android phone, while he was walking down the hallways of the VA Medical Center. After the programming was complete inside, Hendricks and the team of medical professionals went outside to try it out on different terrain.
“We’re setting the parameters as he changes speed and his gait,” said Samocha. “It will know what he wants to do before he does.”
After walking up and down an incline and then testing the new ‘bionic” foot on grass, Hendrick declared victory.
“I’m convinced,” said Hendrick with an ear to ear smile. “I haven’t walked on a real foot in fourteen years.”
Fast Facts on the BiOM:
· Weight 4.5 pounds
· Height 8.25 inches
· Applications walking, hiking, intermittent running and jumping
· Available below the knee amputees between 170 and 250 pounds
For more information, please visit www.iwalk.com.
Recognized in 2011 as one of the “Top Performing” hospitals by the Joint Commission, the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center serves over 44,000 Mississippi Veterans and logged over 430,000 outpatient visits in FY 2011. For the latest news and information about the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center, visit www.jackson.va.gov.