Bionic Woman- Part 3 (The Skeleton)

I am one step closer to getting my new prosthetic arm. On Thursday, June 21st, I went for a “test socket fitting” at BioTech. Using the cast made of my existing upper arm during the April visit, they had created a transparent socket for me to try on at this visit. It was attached to my new Ergo Elbow and prosthetic hand, both purchased from the German manufacturer Otto Bock. The arm was fully operational with cables and harness. It was the skeleton of my new prosthesis, without all of the outside cosmetic features.

“Today you need to determine if you like how the arm feels and works,” my prosthetist Brian explained. “We can make any needed adjustments easily at this point.”

I was a bit anxious, knowing the importance of this step in the process.

First, I focused on the socket. Was it too tight anywhere? Was it too loose anywhere? Did it hurt anywhere? Did the socket hug my upper arm closely enough to give me good control of arm movements? The transparency of the socket allowed Brian and me to see if the fit looked good, helping me answer these questions. We settled on a few minor adjustments and were very pleased with the fit.

Second, I tried out the Ergo Elbow. I think I’m going to like it. It requires a different body movement than my present elbow. Now, I lift my forearm via a cable. With the new elbow, I will slightly swing my arm forward and the interior balance system will raise the forearm. Pretty cool! And as an added bonus, all of the hardware is skin-colored rather than silver.

Third, Brian and I decided what type of harness would be best and what routing for the cabling would be most efficient. We’re both pros at this process so it didn’t take long; Brian has fourteen years of experience and I have fifty-one.

Amazingly, I was in and out in about ninety minutes. I had plenty of day left to head to the Summit Shopping Center in Birmingham and look for a dress for my daughter’s upcoming wedding. For lunch I treated myself to Asian lettuce wraps and banana cream cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. Life is good.

My next appointment is two days away. I think I will come home with my new arm. I’ll be sure to let you know.


Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

Bionic Woman- Part 2 (The Decision)

At last, after four weeks of wrestling with the options, I have made a decision. At 9 a.m. tomorrow morning I am calling BioTech to order my new arm!

I received such great input, information, and encouragement from so many people. I got emails, Facebook comments and messages, tweets, and even a few phone calls. Some friends batted the options back and forth with me in person, helping me think through everything thoroughly. I’m very grateful.

Hearing from two prosthetists (those who make prostheses) and several fellow prosthesis-wearers, I gathered these influential facts about the myoelectric arm:

  1. The cost is higher than I originally estimated—$33,000 instead of $25,000.
  2. It is heavy, possibly up to double the weight of my present body-powered (cable-operated) arm.
  3. It is likely to break down more often than my present arm-type. This is a huge consideration as I have to drive eighty miles one way and use a personal day from work for each repair.
  4. Parts and repairs are more expensive, too. My insurance only covers $2500 per year. On a $33,000 arm, that probably wouldn’t fix one finger.
  5. The suction socket, that would hold the arm on and allow me to get rid of the harness across my back, is tight…very tight. I don’t do tight. I can’t stand the feeling of tight clothes. Spandex suffocates me.
  6. Batteries have to be recharged often. One wearer commented, “When the battery dies, you basically have a door stop.”

Based on these facts, among others, I am going with a body-powered arm. I look forward to the cosmetic improvements now available, such as flesh-colored bolts and cables buried out of sight. I am also getting a new type of elbow—the Ergo Elbow. It has an internal balance system that will make lifting the forearm easier.

It is fun for me to share this adventure with you! I will keep you posted. And a special shout-out goes to the team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Mrs. J.’s students in Indianapolis who are following the process.


Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed. Proverbs 15:22 (MSG)

1962- Got my first prosthesis on my first birthday!