Hand and arm prosthetics in the media - documentaries I [relevant]

Rather than being very technical about it, valuing hand/arm replacements can take various angles. Here are a number of videos that allow significant supplement to any opinion making process.

It pays off for you to take your time. Don't nervously click your way through this website like a chicken with the head chopped off. Look at the text, read it and reflect. Look at the video material, watch it, pause it maybe to take a break, and then reflect. None of this has been put here with the idea of fast or quick entertainment. This is here for consideration and for reflection. This takes time to take in. It should take time. Take your time. This has been put here so you can take it in. You should allow yourself to take it in. Take it in. And then think about it.

BBC Superhuman Series

This series first highlights the possibilities but also risks of myoelectric technology. In the subsequent parts two hand transplant recipients - not all of them too successful in their outcomes - are presented. The guts it takes to present these results is tremendous. But one can also see the functional aspects of it. What one cannot directly see is the emotional impact a long term immunosuppression has. Or the impact that disability and their immediate environment had on these people.

(C) Copyright BBC

Aimee Mullins on Today Show

"And I'm not 'dealing' with it, I'm not 'coping' with it -I'm 'living' with it. It's my life."  (1:01-1:06).

(C) Copyright NBC Today Show

Aimee Mullins on TED 2009 Aimee Mullins and her 12 pairs of legs:

"I was speaking to a group of about 300 kids, ages six to eight, at a children's museum, and I brought with me a bag full of legs, similar to the kinds of things you see up here, and had them laid out on a table, for the kids. And, from my experience, you know, kids are naturally curious about what they don't know, or don't understand, or what is foreign to them. They only learn to be frightened of those differences when an adult influences them to behave that way, and maybe censors that natural curiosity, or you know, reins in the question-asking in the hopes of them being polite little kids. So, I just pictured a first grade teacher out in the lobby with these unruly kids, saying, "Now, whatever you do, don't stare at her legs."

But, of course, that's the point. That's why I was there, I wanted to invite them to look and explore. So I made a deal with the adults that the kids could come in, without any adults, for two minutes, on their own. The doors open, the kids descend on this table of legs, and they are poking and prodding, and they're wiggling toes, and they're trying to put their full weight on the sprinting leg to see what happens with that. And I said, "Kids, really quickly -- I woke up this morning, I decided I wanted to be able to jump over a house -- nothing too big, two or three stories -- but, if you could think of any animal, any superhero, any cartoon character, anything you can dream up right now, what kind of legs would you build me?"

And immediately a voice shouted, "Kangaroo!" "No, no, no! Should be a frog!" "No. It should be Go Go Gadget!" "No, no, no! It should be The Incredibles." And other things that I don't -- aren't familiar with. And then, one eight-year-old said, "Hey, why wouldn't you want to fly too?" And the whole room, including me, was like, "Yeah." (Laughter) And just like that, I went from being a woman that these kids would have been trained to see as "disabled" to somebody that had potential that their bodies didn't have yet. Somebody that might even be super-abled. Interesting.

So some of you actually saw me at TED, 11 years ago, and there's been a lot of talk about how life-changing this conference is for both speakers and attendees, and I am no exception. TED literally was the launch pad to the next decade of my life's exploration. At the time, the legs I presented were groundbreaking in prosthetics. I had woven carbon fiber sprinting legs modeled after the hind leg of a cheetah, which you may have seen on stage yesterday. And also these very life-like, intrinsically painted silicone legs.

So at the time, it was my opportunity to put a call out to innovators outside the traditional medical prosthetic community to come bring their talent to the science and to the art of building legs. So that we can stop compartmentalizing form, function and aesthetic, and assigning them different values. Well, lucky for me, a lot of people answered that call. And the journey started, funny enough, with a TED conference attendee -- Chee Pearlman, who hopefully is in the audience somewhere today. She was the editor then of a magazine called ID, and she gave me a cover story.

This started an incredible journey. Curious encounters were happening to me at the time; I'd been accepting numerous invitations to speak on the design of the cheetah legs around the world. People would come up to me after the conference, after my talk, men and women. And the conversation would go something like this, "You know Aimee, you're very attractive. You don't look disabled." (Laughter) I thought, "Well, that's amazing, because I don't feel disabled." And it really opened my eyes to this conversation that could be explored, about beauty. What does a beautiful woman have to look like? What is a sexy body? And interestingly, from an identity standpoint, what does it mean to have a disability? I mean, people -- Pamela Anderson has more prosthetic in her body than I do. Nobody calls her disabled. (Laughter)

So this magazine, through the hands of graphic designer Peter Saville, went to fashion designer Alexander McQueen, and photographer Nick Knight, who were also interested in exploring that conversation. So, three months after TED I found myself on a plane to London, doing my first fashion shoot, which resulted in this cover -- Fashion-able? Three months after that, I did my first runway show for Alexander McQueen on a pair of hand-carved wooden legs made from solid ash. Nobody knew -- everyone thought they were wooden boots. Actually, I have them on stage with me: Grapevines, magnolias, truly stunning. Poetry matters. Poetry is what elevates the banal and neglected object to a realm of art. It can transform the thing that might have made people fearful into something that invites them to look, and look a little longer, and maybe even understand.

I learned this firsthand with my next adventure. The artist Matthew Barney, in his film opus called the "The Cremaster Cycle." This is where it really hit home for me -- that my legs could be wearable sculpture. And even at this point, I started to move away from the need to replicate human-ness as the only aesthetic ideal. So we made what people lovingly referred to as glass legs even though they're actually optically clear polyurethane, a.k.a. bowling ball material. Heavy! Then we made these legs that are cast in soil with a potato root system growing in them, and beetroots out the top, and a very lovely brass toe. That's a good close-up of that one. Then another character was a half-woman, half-cheetah -- a little homage to my life as an athlete. 14 hours of prosthetic make-up to get into a creature that had articulated paws, claws and a tail that whipped around, like a gecko. (Laughter) And then another pair of legs we collaborated on were these ... look like jellyfish legs. Also polyurethane. And the only purpose that these legs can serve, outside the context of the film, is to provoke the senses and ignite the imagination. So whimsy matters.

Today, I have over a dozen pair of prosthetic legs that various people have made for me, and with them I have different negotiations of the terrain under my feet. And I can change my height -- I have a variable of five different heights. (Laughter) Today, I'm 6'1". And I had these legs made a little over a year ago at Dorset Orthopaedic in England and when I brought them home to Manhattan, my first night out on the town, I went to a very fancy party. And a girl was there who has known me for years at my normal 5'8". Her mouth dropped open when she saw me, and she went, "But you're so tall!" And I said, "I know. Isn't it fun?" I mean, it's a little bit like wearing stilts on stilts, but I have an entirely new relationship to door jams that I never expected I would ever have. And I was having fun with it. And she looked at me, and she said, "But, Aimee, that's not fair." (Laughter) (Applause) And the incredible thing was she really meant it. It's not fair that you can change your height, as you want it.

And that's when I knew -- that's when I knew that the conversation with society has changed profoundly in this last decade. It is no longer a conversation about overcoming deficiency. It's a conversation about augmentation. It's a conversation about potential. A prosthetic limb doesn't represent the need to replace loss anymore. It can stand as a symbol that the wearer has the power to create whatever it is that they want to create in that space. So people that society once considered to be disabled can now become the architects of their own identities and indeed continue to change those identities by designing their bodies from a place of empowerment. And what is exciting to me so much right now is that by combining cutting-edge technology -- robotics, bionics -- with the age-old poetry, we are moving closer to understanding our collective humanity. I think that if we want to discover the full potential in our humanity, we need to celebrate those heartbreaking strengths and those glorious disabilities that we all have. I think of Shakespeare's Shylock: "If you prick us, do we not bleed, and if you tickle us, do we not laugh?" It is our humanity, and all the potential within it, that makes us beautiful. Thank you. (Applause)"

(C) Copyright TED

Aimee Mullins on TED 1998 Aimee Mullins on running:

"Cheryl: Aimee and I thought -- Hi, Aimee. Aimee Mullins: Hi

Cheryl: Aimee and I thought we'd just talk a little bit, and I wanted her to tell all of you what makes her a distinctive athlete.

AM: Well, for those of you who have seen the picture in the little bio, it might have given it away. I'm a double amputee, and I was born without fibulas in both legs. I was amputated at age one, and I've been running like hell ever since, all over the place.

Cheryl: Well, why don't you tell them, like, how you got to Georgetown? Why don't we start there?

AM: I'm a senior in Georgetown in the Foreign Service program. I won a full academic scholarship out of high school. They pick three students out of the nation every year to get involved in international affairs, and so I won a full ride to Georgetown and I've been there for four years. Love it.

Cheryl: When Aimee got there, she decided that she's, kind of, curious about track and field, so she decided to call someone and start asking about it. So, why don't you tell that story?

AM: Yeah. Well, I guess I've always been involved in sports. I played softball for five years growing up. I skied competitively throughout high school, and I got a little restless in college because I wasn't doing anything for about a year or two sports-wise. And I'd never competed on a disabled level, you know. I'd always competed against other able-bodied athletes. That's all I'd ever known. In fact, I'd never even met another amputee until I was 17. And I heard, you know, that they do these track meets with all disabled runners, and I figured, oh, I don't know about this, but before I judge it, let me go see what it's all about. So, I booked myself a flight to Boston in '95, 19 years old, and definitely the dark horse candidate at this race. I'd never done it before. I went out on a gravel track a couple of weeks before this meet to see how far I could run, and about 50 meters was enough for me, panting and heaving. And I had these legs that were made of, like, a wood and plastic compound, attached with Velcro straps -- big, thick, five-ply wool socks on -- you know, not the most comfortable things, but all I'd ever known.

And I'm up there in Boston against people wearing legs made of all things carbon graphite and, you know, shock absorbers in them and all sorts of things, and they're all looking at me like, okay, we know who's not going to win this race, you know. And, I mean, I went up there expecting -- I don't know what I was expecting -- but, you know, when I saw a man who was missing an entire leg go up to the high jump, hop on one leg to the high jump and clear it at six feet, two inches ... Dan O'Brien jumped 5'11" in '96 in Atlanta, I mean, if it just gives you a comparison of -- these are, you know, truly accomplished athletes without qualifying that word "athlete." And so I decided to give this a shot and, you know, heart pounding, I ran my first race, and I beat the national record-holder by three hundredths of a second and became the new national record-holder on my first tryout.

And, you know, people said that, "Aimee, you know, you've got speed -- you've got natural speed -- but you don't have any skill or finesse going down that track. You were all over the place. We all saw how hard you were working." And so I decided to call the track coach at Georgetown. And I thank god I didn't know just how huge this man is in the track and field world. He's coached five Olympians and, you know, the man's office is lined from floor to ceiling with All America certificates, you know, of all these athletes he's coached, and just a rather intimidating figure. And I called him up and said, "Listen, I ran one race and I won, and ...


I want to see if I can, you know -- I need to just see if I can sit in on some of your practices, see what drills you do and whatever." That's all I wanted -- just two practices. Can I just sit in and see what you do? And he said, "Well, we should meet first, before we decide anything." You know, he's thinking, "What am I getting myself into?" So, I met the man, walked in his office, and saw these posters and magazine covers of people he's coached. And we sat and we got talking, and it turned out to be a great partnership because he'd never coached a disabled athlete, so therefore he had no preconceived notions of what I was or wasn't capable of, and I'd never been coached before, so this was, like, here we go -- let's start on this trip.

So he started giving me four days a week of his lunch break, his free time, that I would come up to the track and train with him. So that's how I met Frank. But that was fall of '95, and then, by the winter rolling around, he said, "You know, you're good enough. You can run on our women's track team here." And I said, "No, come on." And he said, "No, no, really. You can. You can run with our women's track team." So spring of 1996, with my goal of making the U.S. Paralympic team that May coming up full speed, I joined the women's track team. And no disabled person had ever done that -- run at a collegiate level. So I don't know, it started to become an interesting mix.

Cheryl: Well, why don't you tell them, like -- on your way to the Olympics -- but a couple of memorable events happened at Georgetown. Why don't you just tell them? AM: Yes, well, you know, I'd won everything as far as the disabled meets everything I competed in -- and, you know, training in Georgetown and knowing that I was going to have to get used to seeing the backs of all these women's shirts -- you know, I'm running against the next Flo-Jo -- and they're all looking at me, like, Hmm, what is, you know, what's going on here? And, you know, putting on my Georgetown uniform and going out there and knowing that, you know, in order to become better -- and I'm already the best in the country -- you know, you have to train with people who are inherently better than you.

And I went out there and made it to the Big East which was, sort of, the championship race at the end of the season, and really, really hot. And it's the first -- I had just gotten these new sprinting legs that you see in that bio -- and I didn't realize at that time that, you know, the amount of sweating that I would be doing in the sock, it actually acted like a lubricant and I'd be, kind of, pistoning in the socket. And at about 85 meters of my 100 meters sprint, in all my glory, I came out of my leg. Like, I almost came out of it, in front of, like, 5,000 people. And I, I mean, just mortified, and -- because I was signed up for the 200, you know, which went off in a half hour.


I went to my coach. I'm ... "Please, don't make me do this." I can't do this in front of all those people. My legs will come off. And if it came off at 85 there's no way I'm going 200 meters. And he just sat there like this. And, you know, my pleas fell on deaf ears -- thank god -- because he was, like -- you know, the man's from Brooklyn -- he's a big man -- he says, "Aimee, so what if your leg falls off? You pick it up, you put the damn thing back on, and finish the goddamn race!"

(Applause) And I did. So, you know, it, sort of, he kept me in line. He kept me on the right track.

Cheryl: So, then Aimee makes it to the 1996 Paralympics, and she's all excited. Her family's coming down -- it's a big deal. She's now -- two years you've been running?

AM: No, a year.

Cheryl: A year. And why don't you tell them what happened right before you go run your race?

AM: Okay, well, Atlanta. The Paralympics, just for a little bit of clarification, are the Olympics for people with physical disabilities -- amputees, persons with cerebral palsy, and wheelchair athletes -- as opposed the the Special Olympics which deals with people with mental disabilities. So, here we are, like, a week after the Olympics, and down at Atlanta, and I'm just blown away by the fact that, you know, just a year ago I got out on a gravel track and couldn't run 50 meters. And so, here I am -- never lost. I set new records at the U.S. Nationals -- the Olympic trials -- that May, and was just, you know, sure that I was coming home with the gold. I was also the only, what they call, bilateral BK -- below the knee. I was the only woman who would be doing the long jump. I had just done the long jump, and a guy who was missing two legs came up to me and says, "How do you do that? You know, we're supposed to have a planar foot, so we can't get off on the springboard." I said, "Well, I just did it. No one told me that."

So, it's funny -- I'm three inches within the world record -- and kept on from that point, you know, so I'm signed up in the long jump -- signed up? -- no, I made it for the long jump and the 100 meter. And I'm sure of it, you know. I made the front page of my hometown paper that I delivered for six years, you know. It was, like, this is my time for shine. And we're at the warm-up stadium -- trainee warm-up track, which is a few blocks away from the Olympic stadium. And these legs that I was on -- which I'll take out right now. I was the first person in the world on these legs -- I was the guinea pig -- and, I'm telling you, this was, like, talk about a tourist attraction.

Everyone was taking pictures of, "What is this girl running on?" And I'm always looking around, like, where is my competition? It's my first international meet. I tried to get out of anybody I could, you know, who, what kind of, you know, who'm I running against here? "Oh, Aimee, we'll have to get back to you on that one." I wanted to find out times. "Don't worry, you're, you know, you're doing great." This is 20 minutes before my race in the Olympic stadium, and they post the heat sheets. And I go over and look. And my fastest time, which was world record, was 15.77. Then I'm looking -- the next lane, lane two, is 12.8. Lane three is 12.5. Lane 4 is 12.2. I said, "What's going on?" And they shove us all into the shuttle bus, and all the women there are missing a hand.


So, I'm just, like -- And their all looking at me like which one of these is not like the other, you know? I'm sitting there, like, "Oh, my god. Oh, my god." You know, I'd never lost anything, like, whether it would be the scholarship or, you know, I'd won five golds when I skied. And everything, I came in first. And Georgetown, you know, that was great. I was losing, but it was the best training because this was Atlanta. Here we are, like, crème de la crème, and there is no doubt about it, that I'm going to lose big. And, you know, I just thinking, "Oh, my god, my whole family, you know, got in a van and drove down here from Pennsylvania." And, you know, I was the only female U.S. sprinter. So, you know, they call us out and, you know, "Ladies, you have one minute." And when I was putting my blocks in and just feeling horrified because there was just this murmur coming over the crowd, like, the ones who are close enough to the starting line to see. And I'm like, "I know! Look! you know. This isn't right." And I'm thinking that's my last card to play here, is, at least, you know, if I'm not going to beat these girls I'm going to mess their heads a little, okay, you know?


I mean, it was definitely the Rocky IV sensation of me versus Germany and, you know, everyone else -- Estonia and Poland -- was in this heat. And, you know, the gun went off, and all I remember was, you know, finishing last and, you know, fighting back tears of frustration and incredible, incredible, this feeling of just being overwhelmed. And I had to think about why did I do this, you know, if I had won everything, and it was, like, what was the point? All this training, and I transformed my life. I became a collegiate athlete, you know. I became an Olympic athlete. And it made me really think about how, you know, the achievement was getting there. I mean, the fact that I set my sight just a year and three months before that on becoming an Olympic athlete and saying, you know, here's my life going in this direction, and I want to take it here for a while, and just seeing how far I could push it.

And the fact that I asked for help -- how many people jumped on board? How many people gave of their time and their expertise, you know, and their patience, you know, to deal with me? And that was, like, this collective glory -- that there was, you know, 50 people behind me that had joined in this incredible experience of going to Atlanta. So, I mean, it's, I apply this sort of philosophy now to everything I do about, like, this, you know, sitting back and realizing the progression, like, how far you've come at this day to this goal, you know. It's important to focus on a goal, I think, but, you know, also recognize the progression on the way there and how you've grown as a person, you know. That's the achievement, I think. That's the real achievement.

Cheryl: Why don't you show them your legs?

AM: Oh, sure.

Cheryl: You know, show us more than one set of legs.

AM: Well, these are my pretty legs.


No, these are my cosmetic legs, actually, and they're absolutely beautiful. You've got to come up and see them. There are hair follicles on them, and I can paint my toenails. And, seriously, like, I can wear heels. Like, you guys don't understand what that's like to be able to just go into a shoe store and buy whatever you want.

Cheryl: You got to pick your height?

AM: I got to pick my height, exactly.


Patrick Ewing, who played for Georgetown in the '80s, comes back every summer. And I had incessant fun making fun of him in the training room because he'd come in with foot injuries. I'm like, "Get it off! Don't worry about it, you know. You can be eight feet tall. Just take them off."


He didn't find it so humorous as I did, anyway. Okay, now, these are my sprinting legs, made of carbon graphite, like I said, and I've got to make sure I've got the right socket. No, I've got so many legs in here. These are -- do you want to hold that actually? That's another leg I have for, like, tennis and softball. It has a shock absorber in it so it, like, "Shhhh," makes this neat sound when you jump around on it. All right. And then this is the silicon thing that I roll over, the silicon sheath I roll over to keep it on which, when I sweat, you know, I'm pistoning out of it.

Cheryl: Are you a different height?

AM: In these?

Cheryl: In these.

AM: I don't know. I don't think so. I don't think so. I may be a little taller. I actually can put both of them on.

Cheryl: She can't really stand on these legs. She has to be moving, so ...

AM: Yeah, I definitely have to be moving, and balance is, sort of, a little bit of an art in them. But without having the silicon sock, I'm just going to try slip in it. And so, I run on these, and have shocked half the world on these.


These are supposed to simulate the actual form of a sprinter when they run. If you ever watch a sprinter, the ball of their foot is the only thing that ever hits the track, so when I stand in these legs, my hamstring and my glutes are contracted as I would be had I had feet and were standing on the ball of my feet.

(Audience: Who made them?)

AM: It's a company in San Diego called Flex-Foot. And I was a guinea pig and, as I hope to continue to be in every new form of prosthetic limbs that come out. But actually these, like I said, are still the actual prototype. I need to get some new ones because the last meet I was at, you know, it's like a big... It's come full circle.

Moderator: Aimee and the designer of them will be at TED Med 2, and we'll talk about the design of them.

AM: Yes, we'll do that.

Cheryl: Yes, there you go.

AM: So, these are the sprint legs, and I can put my other...

Cheryl: Can you tell about who designed your other legs?

AM: Yes. These I got in a place called Bournemouth, England, about two hours south of London, and I'm the only person in the United States with these, which is a crime because they are so beautiful. And I don't even mean, like, because of the toes and everything -- it's, you know, for me, while I'm such a serious athlete on the track, I want to be feminine off the track, and I think it's so important, you know, not to be limited in any capacity, whether it's, you know, your mobility or, you know, even fashion. I mean, I love the fact that I can go in anywhere and pick out what I want and the shoes I want, the skirts I want, and I'm hoping to try to bring these over here and make them accessible to a lot of people. They're also silicon. This is like a really basic, basic prosthetic limb under here. It's like a Barbie foot under this.


It is. I mean, it's just stuck in this position, so I have to wear a two-inch heel. And, I mean, it's really -- let me take this off so you can see it. I don't know how good you can see it, but, like, it really is. There's veins on the feet, and then my heel's, like, pink, you know, and my Achilles' tendon -- that moves a little bit. And it's really an amazing sort. I got them a year and two weeks ago. And this is just a silicon piece of skin. I mean, what happened was, two years ago this man in Belgium was saying, you know, god, if I can go to Madame Tussauds wax museum and see Jerry Hall replicated down to the color of her eyes, looking so real as if she breathed, why can't they build a limb for someone that looks like a leg, you know, or an arm, or a hand? I mean, they make ears for burn victims. They do amazing stuff with silicon.

Cheryl: Two weeks ago, Aimee was up for the Arthur Ashe award at the ESPYs. And she came into town and she rushed around and she said, "I have to buy some new shoes!" We're an hour before the ESPYs, and she thought she'd gotten a two-inch heel but she'd actually bought a three-inch heel.

AM: And this poses a problem for me because it means I'm walking like that all night long.

Cheryl: For 45 minutes, we ha -- luckily the hotel was terrific. They got someone to come in and saw off the shoes.


AM: I said to the receptionist, I mean, I am just harried, and Cheryl's at my side. I said, "Look, do you have anybody here who could help me because I have this problem?" You know, at first they were just going to write me off, like, look, you know: if you don't like your shoes, sorry. It's too late. "No, no, no, no. I've got these special feet, okay, that need a two-inch heel. I have a three-inch heel. I need a little bit off." Okay. You know, they didn't even want to go there. They didn't even want to touch that one. They just did it. No, these legs are great. I'm doing, I'm actually going back in a couple of weeks to get some improvements. I want to get legs like these made for flat feet so I can wear sneakers because I can't with these ones. So... Moderator: That's it.

Cheryl: That's Aimee Mullins.


(C) Copyright TED

Aimee Mullins' TEDMED 2009 talk


Summary / conclusion

While I am currently revising fabric and color choices for my hand and socket, while I am about to go for black / dark red carbon fiber look for my own arm which isn't the average look they do at Balgrist Tec, Ms Mullins >still< strikes me a bit as over the top. Way cool but over the top.

Actually, sometimes I find she can be a bit hard to take - yet, there's a few things that she JUST NAILS. Interesting talk to check out.


Cite this article:
Wolf Schweitzer: swisswuff.ch - Hand and arm prosthetics in the media - documentaries I [relevant]; published 23/07/2009, 00:29; URL: https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=208.

BibTeX: @MISC{schweitzer_wolf_1685684089, author = {Wolf Schweitzer}, title = {{swisswuff.ch - Hand and arm prosthetics in the media - documentaries I [relevant]}}, month = {July}, year = {2009}, url = {https://www.swisswuff.ch/tech/?p=208} }