Thursday, May 15


I recently watched an inspiring news story about a young woman, born with a partial left arm, whose friends raised enough money to buy her a bionic hand.

The problem: I was not inspired.

In fact, the longer I watched the segment, the more uninspired I became. I started to get frustrated, then a little angry.

It's not that I have something against prosthetics per se, and I'm definitely pro dreams coming true. But the way the story angled, one got the impression that this poor deformed girl needed a new hand to be happy; that she was not whole and, if only she had this fancy bionic hand, life would suddenly be peach pies and daffodils.

In an interview, her father tearily explained how worried he'd been about his daughter's success in life. How was she going to do things? I wanted to tell him to just watch and learn. No doubt, he already has.

Her good friends had obviously put a lot of love and energy into their bionic arm fund campaign. They presented her with the money on a stage, in front of a cheering crowd.

I have a lot of thoughts. Firstly, it doesn't matter how many people tell me what great advancements they are making these days in prosthetics, I refuse to get excited. I've been there, I've done the casting, and the waiting, and the fitting, and the waiting...and if you consider that we started with nothing, it is a great achievement in medicine, or mechanics, or electronics...but at the end of the day, when it comes to usability and actual quality of life improvement, prosthetics leave much to be desired.

[Yes, I do know they are now using electrodes to allow brain signals to move electronic fingers]

Secondly, this heartwarming story gave the impression that being without a fake arm left this young lady at a deficit...despite the fact that she was clearly a driven person, successful student, basketball player with a loving family.

My guess? Give it six months and she'll hardly be wearing that bionic hand much at all. And the next thing you know, it'll be in the closet.

What would this world look like if we spent as much energy, money, and time on helping people to appreciate their bodies as we do on science to improve them?