April 10th, 2019 | Published in Amputee Stories Old
Dario Talamantes, 60, joins an elite group of upper extremity amputees to wear the most advanced prosthesis commercially available – the DynamicArm® from Otto Bock. And his prosthetist, Ted Muilenburg, CP, FAAOP, is among only a handful of practitioners in the country who are certified to fit the DynamicArm.
“This is a very high-tech elbow, and the first Otto Bock elbow to have a microprocessor control its movements,” said Ted. “Its microprocessor communication system results in a much faster transfer of information that commands the arm to move. It utilizes a centralized bus system to process communication to as many as four microcontrollers for movement. Unique to this system is the Bluetooth™ USB adapter link, enabling wireless communication between the arm and the computer for programming.”
In other Otto Bock upper extremity myoelectric devices, the wrists rotate, and the hands open and close. But with the technology used in the DynamicArm, there is power in the elbow, making movements quicker and easier.
Dario’s fitting took place at a three-day seminar attended by four other practitioners at Otto Bock’s North American headquarters in Minneapolis. The seminar was only the second offered by Otto Bock to North American practitioners. Ted worked with a laptop computer to calibrate the software in the DynamicArm to match Dario’s muscle movement. “The software provides nine different programs and a customizing program to give even greater control to the user,” Ted said. “Electrodes inside the socket of Dario’s prosthesis contact his skin just over his biceps and triceps that used to move his elbow. Now, when he flexes these muscles, the electrical impulses they produce are picked up by the electrodes that, in turn, now control his prosthetic elbow and hand.”
“It’s a very smooth operation and I appreciate the way it works,” Ted said.
Dario became acquainted with the Muilenburg Prosthetics, Inc. team while a patient at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) in 2005. He was first fitted with an Otto Bock ErgoArm. But as Ted Muilenburg explained, Dario’s lifestyle, his limb length (just above the elbow), and his experience with the ErgoArm made him a good candidate for Otto Bock’s DynamicArm with myoelectric hand and suction socket for suspension.
“The difference is like day and night,” Dario said. “Before, I couldn’t grab things. Now, I can reach out and pick up anything. I’m still getting used to it and learning more about it, but so far, it is easier to use.”
Dario is able to work his 10-acre farm in Brenham, about 70 miles west of Houston. He drives his tractor, mends fences, and carries out other farm-related activities.
Dario lost his arm through a work-related accident when he was employed by Exxon Mobile. Dario was working by himself, opening up a gas well near Anderson, 80 miles north of Houston, when it unexplainably blew. His arm was severed immediately, but Dario managed to get to his truck and drive a mile when he saw a Grimes County deputy. The deputy applied a tourniquet and called for medical help.
Dario was airlifted to Memorial Hermann Hospital where he underwent surgery. He then was transferred to TIRR for rehabilitation.
“I thought it was the end of me,” Dario recalled of those first weeks after the accident. “I didn’t want to leave the house. My grandchildren were scared. But I got over it, especially when I went to TIRR and saw so many others who were worse off than me.”
Things got better for Dario after he received the ErgoArm. He was more confident when he went to public places and was able to talk about his prosthesis when asked questions. “It’s a small town and everybody knew about the accident,” he said. “Sometimes people I didn’t even know came up to me and wanted to see my arm.”
Because of his improved range of motion and grasping abilities, Dario will probably attract less attention from strangers now. “I’m glad I have the DynamicArm,” he said. “It’s helped a lot.”
In addition to the DynamicArm, Ted is expert in other types of myoelectric and conventionally-controlled prostheses. He frequently attends educational programs to keep updated in the latest technological advancements. Ted states that every amputee has a different residual limb and will use their prosthesis in different ways. “As with any upper or lower prosthesis, the practitioners at Muilenburg evaluate each person’s individual situation to select the most beneficial device for them,” he said.