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A Truly Bionic Man

Mountain climber who lost hand back at it again with bionic prosthesis

A British mountain climber severely crippled in a climbing accident two years ago is climbing again, thanks to a new bionic hand.

According to an article from the BBC, Stephen Ball was climbing Mount McKinley, the tallest peak in the United States, when he was trapped with friends in a fierce snowstorm. Ball went for help but fell down half a mile of ice and snow, smashing his body against the rocks. He built himself a shelter, but still suffered severe frostbite that eventually cost him most of his left hand, his right foot and his left leg below the knee. After being rescued, he spent weeks in the hospital before being flown back to England.

While at Nottingham City Hospital, he became the first adult with a partial hand amputation to be fitted with a specially built electronic prosthesis. It was built with the same technology that had been previously used on five children. Ball says he now has a fully functioning hand.

He can pick up a mug by the handle, he can write, he can tie his shoelaces and use a knife and fork. And he is climbing again. He has been climbing some peaks in the United Kingdom with his wife, Linda, and has big plans for his future.

"I have started on the easy climbs, but I would love to climb McKinley again," he told the BBC.

To find out more about the history of prosthetics and recent advances, go to the Northwestern University Orthotic Center, or this article from Behavioral Medicine.

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