Aaron Bricewick, hero of True Surrender, returns from war in Afghanistan an amputee. When I was writing scenes (in 2010) related to his amputation and fake leg, there had already been great advances in prosthetic limbs (largely due to the higher numbers of wounded veterans).
Today, there are an estimated five or six limb-salvage patients for every amputee from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. (Meaning they have not had an amputation.)
But in a strange twist, soldiers have been asking FOR amputations (months or even years after the injury) because limb rehab is so difficult, and requires so many surgeries, for what is still a questionable outcome (many soldiers who’ve kept their wounded legs still cannot walk without pain, let alone run or do more demanding physical activity). With an amputation, they can be fitted for a modern prosthesis and get much more function than the “dead” limb was otherwise achieving.
So I read with interest a recent article (Time magazine) about a new brace called an IDEO, or Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis. This special brace fits into the person’s shoe and runs a carbon-fiber strut up the calf to a cuff that attaches just below the knee, acting as a cheetah-like springboard for an ankle that can’t flex and muscles that no longer exist.
It has an amazing success rate – and I was surprised how quickly the success could be achieved (in some cases, patients who could hardly walk were running and jumping within a week of being fitted). In fact, nearly half the participants have asked for and been granted a return to duty – and those duties include very physically demanding jobs in Special Forces and Navy Seals.
I think this is one to keep watch on!