• Monthly Archives: May 2009

Artistic visions for prosthetic design III – playing with instructions and materials

I started out being surprised by the visual attraction and emotional impact of a primarily artistic (rather than functional) prosthetic arm. I continued to walk in amazement for a while.

Then I tried a simple but very powerful design variation myself – my Red Hand Experiment that started with a mannequin hand that I had painted plain red using glossy acrylic paint. I loved it. I loved the idea of having come up with this myself, of having painted it myself, of having worked on constructing the wrist myself.

Thirdly I feel that I know best what’s good for me in terms of artwork. I may be wrong, obviously – there are far better artists that can draft and showcase prosthetic designs. But they don’t call me, they do not send me their prototypes, let me wear them, they don’t see to it that their designs make it into production – nothing of that kind. Not until recently that is, when Dan started his business. Furthermore, prosthetic artwork is not insurance covered and so price plays a huge role. Otto Bock, Hosmer or TRS do not carry artistically enhanced prosthetic parts – and if they would, I probably could not pay for them.

And so one of the things I consider is doing it myself. Even if other people will never understand it – being able to creatively shape the way I can fill in my own missing part helps greatly to live with it. I find that working on my arm is good just to feel better about it. That creative process feels like a necessary part of healing to me.

So now seems like a good time to look at technical aspects.

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Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, by Erving Goffman


Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity is THE seminal text on stigma and social identity, a complex subject that I am interested in two ways, trying to learn about social aspects by reading and trying out practical ways of counteracting negative issues.

It contains an illuminating excursion into the situation of persons who are unable to conform to standards that society calls normal. Disqualified from full social acceptance, we are stigmatized individuals. Physically deformed people, ex-mental patients, drug addicts, prostitutes, or those ostracized for other reasons must constantly strive to adjust to their precarious social identities.

Their image of themselves must daily confront and be affronted by the image which others reflect back to them. Read this book and you will discover what it means to be stigmatized.

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Body powered vs. myoelectric vs. cosmetic vs. none

I now got a customized socket to try out a myoelectric prosthesis (used Otto Bock parts, initially functioning, no warranty). As my stump features some extra twitch packs (how do you call the muscle packs they put on your stump so you have a chance of creating extra myoelectric signals for modern prostheses?) I figured let us see how myoelectric stuff works as one day that may become interesting.

This adds to my collection in that I currently have a body powered setup (fully fledged), a cosmetic prosthesis (light weight, elegant) and the option of wearing none. Before opting for any bionic arm I was interested to see what issues might arise.

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RAPHaEL (Robotic Air Powered Hand with Elastic Ligaments)

If such hands can be mounted on long stumps – as there seems to be no requirement for a motor that may take up hand or wrist space – and if they can be gradually cable controlled (rather than through electrodes), these may offer very promising options. The thing is that myoelectric control may not only look slow, it also can be very uncomfortable to wear and only allow very limited function because of that. Despite that, a lot of funding, sales activity, general opinion making or media presence seems to be taken up by high-tech gadgets such as the DEKA arm, Otto Bock’s Michelangelo hand or TouchBionics’ iLimb whose demos can be matched with cable controlled arm demos and you will immediately understand – also from simple analysis of requirements – that a caring and responsible setup will improve an amputee’s ability to work, act, and be well rather than addressing the needs of a prosthetic gadget builder — two subjects that may, but do not necessarily have to, overlap.

From http://www.eng.vt.edu/news/article.php?niid=1686:

The Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa) of the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech has developed a unique robotic hand that can firmly hold objects as heavy as a can of food or as delicate as a raw egg, while dexterous enough to gesture for sign language.

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Rotator cuff exercises

Rotator cuff, impingement, shoulder pain, shoulder problems are an issue for many people but particularly for arm amputees. One has to be careful to not overdo it with either both shoulders (800m butterfly style swimming was what gave both of my shoulders the last kick) or with the dominant arm’s shoulder (lifting weights, lifting groceries, lifting furniture, etc).

I got into some trouble in December 2008 so I got some physiotherapy. After my physiotherapist started me with some exercises, things got back to normal. Don’t forget. One MUST exercise!

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Airport nightmares I – Wien Schwechat

Am 3.5.09 wurde ich am Flughafen Wien kontrolliert. Da ich eine (mechanische) Armprothese trage, geht das Warnsignal des Metalldetektors jeweils los. Der Sicherheitsmitarbeiter kam gleich auf mich zu. Seine Finger begannen rasch, in etwas verwirrter Weise meinen Kabelzug abzutasten, aber irgendwie schoen er dort haengen geblieben zu sein und fiel in eine Art Rewind-Play-Rewind-Play-Mode. Er begann dann etwas von “Hemd ausziehen” zu sagen, was ich nicht genauer verstand, da es kein ganzer Satz war.

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