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After 35 Years Without A Prosthesis, Arm Amputee Finds i-limb™ Gives Him Flexibility

Stories |

Life changed dramatically for Ray D. in 1963 when, while driving a tractor-mounted corn picker on the family farm, the tractor hit a 2,400 volt high line. He was trapped under the line for more than half an hour before rescuers could safely touch him. His friend riding with him was dead and rescuers thought Ray was dead, too. In fact, he was being transported to the funeral home when his movement startled the ambulance emergency medical team.

Ray was promptly taken to a hospital and remained there for three months. His injuries left him with a below-elbow amputation, partial foot amputations, and serious burns on his body. Doctors then told him that living a “normal” life wasn’t in his prognosis.

But Ray was only 17 and not only optimistic, but realistic. He had his entire life ahead of him. He realized he was given a second chance and he was not about to let it get away from him.

His turning point came when, about a year after the accident, he and a brother went to a swimming hole. “The doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to swim. I thought I would jump in anyway and try to swim back to shore. I figured if I could do that, it would mean the doctors were wrong. And if they were wrong about that, they could be wrong about everything else.”

Ray, of course, safely made it back to shore.

“Being an amputee doesn’t mean you can’t do anything you did before, you just find a different way to do it,” he said.

Through all the years since his accident, Ray, a successful farmer and banker, has not used a prosthesis. He first tried one in the hospital when he was recovering from his injuries, but like many upper extremity amputees at the time, he found the prosthesis hot and uncomfortable, and finally stopped wearing it.

But recently, as he was being treated for a foot wound, he was given some information about the newest technology for arm amputees, the i-limb, a prosthesis that enables the user to have the use of a fully articulating prosthetic hand.

When he visited American Orthotics and Prosthetics in Bettendorf for shoe inserts, he questioned prosthetist Angie Luckritz, CPO, LPO. “The more he came in, the more questions he asked,” Angie said.

When Ray finally decided he would give it a try, Angie fit him with an acrylic lamination socket with a silicone liner and a pin-lock system. “Skin integrity was an issue and the liner gave him extra comfort and padding,” she said. “Ray first tried the hand during the check socket fitting and was able to use it right away, moving the digits and picking up objects.”

Although Ray has achieved remarkable success without the use of a prosthesis, he discovered that the i-limb gives him more flexibility. “It’s a pleasant feeling to use that part of the body again. It’s just a very natural thing. The mind never forgot how to use the right hand. I can finally give my left arm a rest after all these years. I can now hold the steering wheel with my right hand and drive my five-speed bug.”

Ray continues to count his blessings and advises others not to be afraid to seek out new opportunities. “Don’t give up and have a negative attitude,” he said. “Associate with people who challenge you and lift you up.

“My goals in farming and banking always have been to help other people,” he added. “I hope by sharing my experiences here, it will be encouragement for someone.”