Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Today I’m teaching my new arm how to stack discs on a peg. This exercise is no different from everything else I’ve done here lately. All pretty much futile. The way it’s supposed to work is with my real right arm I place the biggest blue ring on the peg, and then I try to will the metal hand at the end of my phantom arm into putting a second blue ring on the other peg. It learns, or it’s supposed to be learning how I make my good arm move. They’ve wired it to both the remains of my left bicep, and my good right arm. It’s also tapped into the big nerve bundles where they enter my spinal column. That freaks me out just thinking about it. The idea is that the prosthetic arm will watch what my right arm does when I make it move, and then it will somehow recognize the similar instructions I give my phantom arm, and act on them. It sounded like it could work, but it’s been a slow process.

“You’re thinking too hard.” The doctor’s a bit of an arrogant ass, but I’m here on his nickel, so I tolerate him as best I can. “I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but don’t over-think this, you’ll just confuse it. Close your eyes, count to ten backwards and put both rings on at the same time.”

“Sure Doc, whatever you say.” He may be on to something, I know there are things I do better without thinking. “10, 9, 8.”

“Good, good! There, you see it works. You just have to think less.”

Both blue rings are on both pegs. Shit. He might be right. Of course, this arm just did something when I wasn’t looking, and that’s a little weird.

“Try the orange one. Don’t think, just do it.” His cheerful tone really grates on my nerves, he’s got two good arms and isn’t stuck in the kindergarten play room stacking blocks all day.

“Good, good! There, you see, you’ve done it again.” Ok, that’s just not right at all. It’s like the arm’s trying to impress him or something. It is working though, there’s no question about that. Maybe if I try harder, no, maybe if I try a little less hard, maybe I’ll get the hang of this thing. I’ve been waiting for an arm like this for almost a year now, I mean an arm I can actually control, one I can actually get to do things I want done. Maybe stacking discs for a little while longer’s not such a big deal.

“Good, good! There, you see, you’ve finished.” I really should pay more attention than that, I mean, I wasn’t even trying that time. This is going to take a bit of getting used to.

I wonder how long has this arm been waiting for me?

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