K46 -- November 2010 -- Soldier's New Legs
Intro: He was serving in Iraq when it happened. A rocket ripped through the truck Staff Sergeant Heath Calhoun was riding in. The explosion blew off both legs above the knees. Unfortunately this scenario is not uncommon for soldiers in combat. What's amazing is that technology is helping many of these soldiers walk again. Sergeant Calhoun is teaming up with researchers at Mayo Clinic to help make prosthetics even better.
"I looked down and could tell that my uniform was ripped pretty bad and I was bleeding pretty badly. When I woke up after surgery a doc came in and told me both my legs were gone."
Now Staff Sergeant Heath Calhoun has new legs. Computerized prosthetics that allow him to walk, run, even play golf.
"It's very, very important for me to get back into life."
SSgt. Calhoun is at Mayo Clinic to test the new generation of prosthetics that will hopefully allow people who've lost their legs to function as normally as possible.
"For people who have bilateral, above-knee amputations, a 25-year follow-up of Vietnam veterans shows that only 22 percent of them were actually up and walking with prosthetics."
Dr. Kenton Kaufman says that's often because it's a challenge to learn to walk with two above-knee amputations. Even for athletic people like SSgt. Calhoun.
"It was very difficult. I struggled with strength in my limbs to move these heavy new prosthetics, and I struggled with balance."
But over time it got easier. The prosthetics he learned to walk on work well, but they still have limitations. For example...
"With the old ones I'd walk up, throw my legs up, shift and come around. with the new ones I can bend the knee like that."
Computerized legs are smart. They can sense when to lock or when to swing freely. New models are getting even smarter.
As the prosthetic devices get better and have more computational power, they are getting to the point where more and more people can use them.
That's what Ssgt. Calhoun wants. He already gave his legs for his country. Now he's giving his time to help make it easier for others who've lost their legs to get up and get back into life. (sound)
For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.
Sergeant Calhoun is more than an athlete. He's an Olympic caliber athlete who competes in downhill skiing. The devices Sergeant Calhoun tested were supplied by Hangar Prosthetics. He's able to push these devices to their limits so that researchers can develop better ways to help people who've lost limbs walk again.
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