The nerves have an incredible memory. Twelve years after her triple amputation, those of Priscille Deborah have been able to recover their primary function, to make the junction between the brain and the muscles: “My brain has learned to integrate it into my body and suddenly I don’t even think about it anymore. I don’t even feel like I’m giving the order anymore“, smiles this pioneer who, with her bionic arm, a true concentrate of technology, writes, cooks and paints. She has even become a recognized artist.
Behind this feat, two surgeons from the hand center of the Jules Vernes clinic in Nantes, including doctor Edward de Keating Hart, who after several hours of delicate operation, managed to awaken nerves dormant since the amputation and use the muscles remaining to operate this precision mechanic: “The nerves that are in the stump are still there, but they no longer have a function because they need muscle. So, we take these nerves, there are three main ones, and we are going to do some surgical work, that is to say take some remaining muscles and we are going to make them connect with the nerve that opens and closes the hand.“.
Result, after two long years of rehabilitation, much more fluid, precise gestures, and therefore less muscle and brain fatigue to perform them. A technique developed in the United States, which also helps to fight against pain known as phantom limbs.
An adventure in which the orthoprosthetist Sylvio Bagnarosa, present from the operating room, then throughout the rehabilitation period, is closely involved. Before the final prosthesis, he made between nearly twenty models, taking into account the evolution of Priscilla’s arm over the weeks. A medical and technological challenge as costly (160,000 euros per prosthesis) as it brings hope. In terms of bionic prostheses, the researchers have not said their last word as the prosthetist explains: “My dream is to see an amputee play the piano. It would be wonderful to be able to reproduce all these movements with natural ease.“.
The last patient to have benefited from this type of prosthesis was operated on in March in Nantes. Priscille Deborah, she wrote a book: A life to be invented. She retraces the road traveled since her suicide attempt in 2006. Today, her painting is recognized, and she practices diving, skiing, horseback riding, all of this almost autonomously.