A Toast to the Bionic Man
October 21, 2008 01:52 AM EST - submitted by
The plotline is classic Marvel Comics fare: An electrician grabs a high-tension wire carrying 7,000 volts of electricity, loses both arms at the shoulder, undergoes an experimental surgery, and emerges bionic. Sci-fi as it sounds, this is the story of Jesse Sullivan, 58, a real-life retired linesman from Dayton, Tennessee.
In July, Sullivan demonstrated the world's most advanced robotic arm, using his thoughts alone to maneuver it. Before an audience at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago he picked up a water bottle, took a swig, and set it back down. "Jesse was awesome," says Todd Kuiken, director of RIC's amputee program, who pioneered the radical nerve-transfer surgery that allows Sullivan to communicate with the limb. Kuiken also engineered the new limb's design.