Advanced prosthesis to help man go back to hunting, fishing

Published: Jun. 1, 2020 at 6:38 PM CDT
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A man in our area is spending his last night without use of both his hands.

This week, Walkabout Orthotics and Prosthetics in Wausau is fitting him for an advanced hand that will help him take his life back.

Jerry Nichols says his new hand will make a huge difference.

It's going to help him do so much that some of us take for granted, like holding a cell phone, or for Nichols, getting back to doing what he loves.

"Just anything outdoors, that's my thing… always has been," he said.

Jerry Nichols loves hunting and fishing. After losing his hand and lower arm several months ago, he hasn't been able to do either.

"I can cast it out… but as of right now I can't reel it in, cause I don't have an arm or a hand to hold onto the fishing reel to reel it in," he said, noting the mental frustration it’s caused him to have to rely on others for tasks as simple as mowing the lawn. “I’m trying to learn how to do a lot of stuff, still learning yet, left-handed, being right-handed.”

This week, that's all changing with the help of an advanced prosthesis from Walkabout. Myoelectric prostheses for the upper body make up a small fraction of their business, since they say upper extremity amputations have become relatively rare.

"It’s pretty exciting stuff. This prosthesis is going to allow him to rotate the wrist, open and close the hand, and then the hand will automatically return to a neutral position," said Bob Agard, a certified prosthetist and orthotist and staff clinician at Walkabout.

The hand is battery-powered. It'll be driven by electricity in Nichols' movement, rather than his muscles. Which means his new hand will feel more like his other hand.

"We can take the signal that's traversing over the top of our skin, recognize that, and convert it into power generated into a prosthetic hand," Agard explained.

The first thing he'll do with that hand, besides reel in a big one?

"Walk around next to my wife, maybe even put my arm around her this way too, used to doing that. Maybe even hold her hand if I don't squeeze too hard,” he said, laughing. "It will bring a lot more joy to my life. It really will."

Nichols will be finished with the fitting process Tuesday and will get to walk out with his new hand in just a few short weeks.