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Continued: Navy to study combat wounded as young, active amputees push limitations of medical science

  • Article by: JULIE WATSON , Associated Press
  • Last update: July 3, 2014 - 6:59 AM

His prosthetic arm has a flashlight so at night he can see where he plants his prosthetic foot. His prosthetic arm has the knobs and battery pack positioned to one side so he can shoot a bow and arrow.

Thanks to the laser treatments on his scar tissue, he can now hold a toothbrush, write with a pen, dial his phone, and pull the trigger of a hunting rifle. Laser treatments also removed a sore, allowing him to withstand his prosthetic leg for 18 hours a day.

Shumaker and Dr. Chad Hivnor, who recently retired from Lackland Air Force Base, helped pioneer the method. Hivnor also discovered botulinum toxin A injections decrease perspiration where the prosthetic limb attaches, helping stop it from slipping off while the person is exercising or in hot climates.

The findings were recently presented to the American Academy of Dermatology to promote the treatment for severely scarred people in the general population.

"These are not special, scar lasers or special, wounded warrior lasers," Shumaker said. "We've taken these techniques that are primarily used for cosmetic purposes and altered them a bit to apply to trauma rehabilitation."

Such unconventional treatments make a big difference in daily life, veterans and their doctors say. One soldier's scar tissue has softened so he can grasp his daughter's hand; another can now type.

A week after a recent treatment, Meyers rode on his motorcycle through a shopping district in Murrieta, 60 miles northeast of San Diego. His pinky and ring finger operated the throttle that has been put on the left side because he only has a left wrist. It has a side car that can carry another amputee, wheelchair or his dog.

Meyer and two others have started the nonprofit organization, Warfighter Made, which modified his motorcycle. It also customizes sports cars, off-road vehicles and other transportation for veterans, who can join in the work.

"What we want is for a guy in the coolest car to drive into a handicap spot and have people be like, 'What's this guy doing?' Then they see him get out with his prosthetic legs," said Meyer, whose prosthetic leg sports a sticker of Bill Murray and the word "Laugh."

Meyer works for the Injured Marines Semper Fi Fund, counseling fellow combat veterans. He loves the photograph taken after he was injured because "it's the exact opposite of what somebody expects you to do. So when I show it to people and they are inspired by it, instead of being shocked, I know they get it."

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