Brooke Army Medical Center tests DEKA arm

At Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio they are testing a mechanical arm that's right on the cutting edge of making people whole again.

The therapist says he's opening doors that were previously closed to him, and it's because of the technology that's currently available. 

David Gonzales is in week four of a study for the DEKA arm.

"There's no way to explain it. I think it's the best thing they ever came up with," Gonzales said.

It's a fully motorized arm, wrist and hand. And while it's still in the trial stage it's offering people like Gonzales little miracles.

"I was able to pick up a credit card. [I] haven't done it again, but I did it once. The way they made it, can see them there," Gonzales said.

Gonzales explained how he controls the arm with Bluetooth enabled controls on his shoes.

"If I roll my foot, the arm will roll out. If I roll it in and it goes back to normal," Gonzales said.

His occupational therapist, Lisa Smurr-Walters, is with him every step of the way, and all the in house testing is recorded for further study and evaluation. What you see here is the "home use study", but this is so much more than kitchen chores.

"Can you imagine if I was to tie up your arms and you have to feed yourself, it's's a challenge. And we interact with the world using our hands with communication, talking, shaking someone's hand…all of that so to take that away from someone, it's a life changing experience," Smurr-Walters said.

She says the key with the DEKA arm is its ability to go beyond the hooks. What people with arms find mundane, like playing connect four is almost out of reach with the hooks, but the DEKA is designed to make the mundane miraculous.

"To have a motorized shoulder, elbow, hand and wrist for an upper limb amputation is huge," Smurr-Walters said.

"It's just hard to explain, it's really amazing, there's no way to describe this hand it's awesome it's terrific," Gonzales said.

And it's keeping him in the game.

The DEKA arm study at BAMC is being paid for by the Department of Veterans Affairs, it is scheduled to finished in 2016.

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