North-East soldier looks forward to more independence with pioneering robotic arm

The Northern Echo: Andrew Garthwaite with his prosthetic arm Andrew Garthwaite with his prosthetic arm

A NORTH-East soldier badly wounded in Afghanistan today showed off his bionic arm during his final visit to a rehabilitation centre.

Corporal Andrew Garthwaite, 26, of South Shields, South Tyneside, is the first person in Britain to be fitted with a prosthetic limb that is controlled by the brain.

He lost his right arm when a Taliban grenade exploded in Helmand Province three years ago and now has a mechanical limb that is connected to his nervous system. 

Cpl Garthwaite showed off the arm to Defence Minister Anna Soubry during his final visit to the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre in Headley Court today.

“The surgery has made a massive improvement to my life," he said. "I have become a lot more independent and all the normal things I was struggling with have become so much easier.

“I am now able to participate more in the kitchen – simple tasks like making a coffee, baking cakes and opening jars have made a real difference."

He underwent surgery to have the prosthetic limb attached to his right shoulder at the Medical University of Vienna in 2011 and has undergone 18 months of treatment to learn to control it. 

"Because obviously I haven't had a thumb or a finger for the last three years, then all of a sudden to start feeling stuff, is a total weird feeling so you have got to train your brain to move this hand," he said.

The surgery was part-funded by the Ministry of Defence.

Ms Soubry said: “It has been an immense privilege to have witnessed this revolutionary mind-controlled prosthetic in action today.

“I am committed to making sure our injured personnel get the best possible medical care and support. "


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