New robotic hands changing West Michigan woman’s life

Posted at 6:50 PM, Oct 27, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-27 18:50:06-04

KENT COUNTY, Mich. -- Pam Buschle survived a potentially deadly infection, losing her hands and feet in the process.  Now, her quality of life is getting a boost thanks to some new technology.

After her fight through septic shock and four amputations, Pam has been learning how to use body-powered mechanical hands and prosthetic feet. She’s a fast learner and can even make her way around her home without assistance.

Now, Pam has the opportunity to use new, more effective robotic hands. Worth a little more than a $100,000, Pam has to relearn everything on her new Touch Bionics i-limb Ultra Revolution Prosthetic Hands.

It's a little bit of a mouthful, but these hands are going to drastically improve Pam’s quality of life.

Katie Johnson, Certified Prosthetics Orthotics at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, believes the new technology will have a little bit of a learning curve for Pam.

“Hers specifically are used through muscle signals,” said Johnson. “When she contracts her muscle, the electrode on top of her muscle will be red and that will open or close the hand.”

She can even connect the hands to her iPhone. Using her touch pad hand sleeves, Pam will be able to control over 36 hand gestures with the push of a button or a quick wave of the hand.

“So, say at her keyboard she always wants to go into that typing hand pattern,” said Johnson. “We can program that grip chip to go to that specific hand and so when she waves her hand over it, it can go into that specific hand grasp.”

If Pam could go back in time and avoid the illness altogether she said of course she would, but her story is now one of healing and recovery.

“It means that I'm going to be able to recover my life again and do almost all of the things that I did before I had my amputations, so I'm pretty excited about that,” said Pam.

Pam is a Social Worker at Challenger and Brookwood Elementary and she can’t wait to help the kids using her new hands.