Bionic man becoming a reality one limb at a time -

Bionic man becoming a reality

We've all heard of the bionic man, but did you ever think it would become reality? Because of the swift development in technology, it is now here. The University of Mississippi Medical Center has one of only a handful of rehab centers in the country testing a bionic foot.

Blake Carr thought he'd be fresh out of college and saying farewell to a collegiate baseball career by the age of 26. Instead, he's fitting a prosthesis on a woman whose lower right leg has been amputated.

"At first they're like, 'You don't know what you're talking about. Who are you?' When I pull my pants leg up and show them I'm wearing a prosthesis, the light comes on. They sit up in bed. They want to see it," Blake said. 

Blake lost his foot and part of his lower leg after an ATV accident eight years ago. Now he's working at the rehab center where he was treated for six months.

He's also testing the most state-of-the-art prosthetic foot ever made.

"What it does is when you take your step, you know how you get ready to push off? It pushes off for you. It makes things easier. It's the closest thing I can remember to having a real leg because it feels so intimate," he says. "It feels like a part of me."

Blake is walking on a bionic foot called BiOM, meaning "it is going to provide energy. It interfaces with the body and it's going to provide energy to the body," according to UMMC Associate Professor Rick Psonak.

Psonak says other prosthetics tend to zap that energy.

"When you're using the rollover foot or the deflecting foot, the carbon fiber, you have to use other joints in your body, your hip, your back," he explains. "It's really taxing at the end of the day. They go home and they're sore."

The BiOM foot has given Blake more than the freedom to walk with a near perfect gait. He can hop up and down, and run like he just got a new breath of freedom. For Blake, it's just the tip of the ice berg.

"He could do leg presses with it," says Psonak. "He can do some incredible things with his foot. We're really taking it to the far end of what it's designed for."

Blake didn't get to choose his career. Instead, his career chose him. Blake is an inspiration to new amputees trying to adapt to the challenges of losing a limb.

"It's really a joy to be able to help those people out. That it's just a bump in the road and they're going to get through it," Blake said.

Currently, only about 75 BiOMs have been fitted in the U.S., mostly in the military. But Psonak says he's optimistic it will be available in a couple of years.

UMMC rehab also is testing a bionic knee. Both the knee and the foot are battery charged and operated by a remote. The cost is about $50,000 for this technology.

Copyright 2012 America Now. All rights reserved.

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