When Chuck Tiemann lost his right leg and left arm in an accident 15 years ago, he thought many of life’s simple joys were forever lost to him.
Now the 39-year-old Braman, Okla., man has regained some of those lost sensations as part of the first group of amputees to test a new generation of artificial limbs that return the sense of touch.
“The first time I could reach out and touch my wife’s hand and feel the warmth after more than a decade - that was a very emotional moment,” he said.
The sensory system is being developed by the Sabolich Prosthetic Research Center in Oklahoma City, a division of Novacare Inc., a large physical rehabilitation company based in King of Prussia, Pa.
Sabolich planned to formally unveil the system today.
The system uses pressure and temperature sensors and electronic circuits embedded in false arms and legs. These circuits are connected to electrodes inside a prosthesis’ socket which touch the skin of the truncated limb.
The electrodes transfer pressure pulses, or sensations of heat or cold, to surviving nerve endings.
John Sabolich, Novacare’s national prosthetics director, said two years of tests began this spring that ultimately will involve 120 amputees nationwide. The products could be on the market in under a year.
Patients have described the sense of touch they get as a tingling, “like the feeling you get when your foot’s asleep,” Sabolich said.
Tiemann, a former utility lineman who lost his leg and arm in an accident atop an electrical pole, said the sensory system and other innovations help amputees regain a sense of normalcy.