It’s one thing for wealthy entrepreneur and futurist Ray Kurzweil to talk up the prospect of bionic limbs providing one tool that will help us live forever. It’s another when a single mom living with her parents can also look at getting a bionic hand.
Nicola Wilding, a 35-year-old British woman, is doing just that. She met with an Austrian doctor, Oscar Aszmann, who has performed an operation to give someone a working hand.
Wilding lost the use of her right arm in a car crash 12 years ago. Doctors were able to restore some motion in the arm, but not in the hand. Wilding told the BBC getting a bionic hand would change her life:
It’s the everyday things. If you go to butter toast you can’t hold it. I’ve used my teeth to open bottles and chipped some teeth. Taking my clothes off, having a shower. I have to have meals prepared for me — I can’t peel a potato as much as I’ve tried.
First, though, she’ll have to go to Vienna, where Aszmann is based, and undergo extensive tests to ensure she’s a good candidate. If she is, she’ll have to raise money both for the surgery and for a lifetime’s supply of prosthetic hands and maintenance.
Nicola’s story shows how far we are moving beyond bionic limbs as the sole province of science fiction. It’s becoming common for soldiers who’ve been seriously injured to have limbs amputated and replaced with artificial ones. The ability of the human brain to connect with artificial limbs is increasing. For Nicola Wilding, an artificial hand might lead to a normal life.