Quadruple amputee receives new bionic hands

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Patients who need prosthetics not only need help getting the devices, but they also need to learn how to use them and adjust to a whole new life. Sherron Couldren spent most of her life taking care of others as a daycare worker and school volunteer. But a year ago, she suffered from a condition called septicemia.

“It was blood poisoning -- septic shock syndrome -- which is a form of blood poisoning,” she explained. “So what happens is all the blood leaves your extremities and rushes to your internal organs.”

The blood infection nearly killed her and the lack of circulation meant both of her legs, hands and part of her face and tongue had to be amputated.

“I couldn't wash my face with a washcloth, I can’t do my hair, I literally could do very, very little,” she said.

She feared she would have to live in a nursing home for the rest of her days.

“I said, ‘Do I want to be like this for the rest of my life? Do I want to be in a nursing home for the next 20, 25 years lying in bed watching TV?’” Couldren said. “No, that was not me.”

As she came to grips with her reality, she decided to change it. Thanks to Ability Prosthetics and Orthotics, in just 15 months, Couldren was able to do that – one step at a time.

She said, “Ability Prosthetics, who actually did my legs, also said, ‘Well, I should have hands,’ and I said, ‘Well, what does that mean?’”

What it meant was the high-tech prosthetics the company could provide would give her nearly full range of movement of her fingers and hands.

“She lost her fingers, but there are still muscles in her hands,” said Tyler Manee, a certified prosthetist and orthoptist for Ability Prosthetics and Orthotics. “So we have taught her to fire specific muscles when she wants to open or close the hand. We have EMG sensors over those muscles. They pick up the electric current from when muscles fire and turn the robotics in the hand on and off.”

Ability Prosthetics and Orthotics is celebrating the grand opening of a new patient care center in Rockville where they hope to help others just like Couldren.

“I have a right hand again,” she said. “That's a miracle.”

Couldren said one of the biggest challenges she has dealt with is her insurance company. Because they consider the technology for her prosthetics experimental, she has to convince her insurance company that it will make a huge difference in her quality of life and health.

She could have so easily focused on how much she has lost. But now, Couldren is full of joy and has a whole new perspective on life.