News, Your Health Seth Stratton | 7 years ago

New Robotic Arm Makes Army Veteran a Pioneer

Army veteran, dentist, athlete, loving husband and father Steve Hix has gained an impressive list of personal and professional accomplishments throughout his life. His focus, determination and courageousness, have served him well in the military and later in his career as a dentist. But now, he uses those attributes to help him against his most difficult challenge: being diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. From the time of his diagnosis four years ago until today, Steve has slowly lost strength. He uses a wheelchair to get around and an iPad to communicate. His mind remains sharp, however the inability to carry out everyday tasks remains s a frustration shared by Steve and those with ALS. One day while in clinic at Carolinas HealthCare System's Carolinas Neuromuscular/ALS-MDA Center, Amber Ward, an occupational therapy coordinator at the ALS clinic, showed Steve and his wife, Debbie, a robotic arm that could be connected to his wheelchair and assist with everyday tasks. Immediately, Steve knew he wanted to try the arm. Ward says most people will never grasp how devastating and difficult ALS can be, but technology is helping to make a big difference. "My goal is to help each of my patients learn how to make the most of their life and I am very excited that we are able to work with Steve and his family to make this arm a success," Ward said. Steve is the first person with ALS in the United States to use the Jaco robotic arm, and with the technology's help, he’ll be able to shave, open the refrigerator to grab a snack, play with the family dog and even scratch an itch. "As a caregiver, I know how much this arm has helped me and Steve,” Debbie said. “I can relax knowing that he can get a glass of water on his own and doesn't need me for everything, which I know means a lot to him and gives me a break, too. Without the arm, it took me an hour-and-a-half to feed him. Now he can do it himself, so we are able to sit down and enjoy a meal together." [gallery link="none" type="slideshow" ids="1914,1913,1912,1911,1910,1909,1908,1907"]