Amputation: Zac Vawter's Story - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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AMPUTATION:
Zac Vawter's Story

Software Engineer, Age 32, Seattle, WA

RIC patient Zac VawterZac Vawter, father of two, was on his way home from work riding his motorcycle in rural Washington State when he spun, landed, and skidded with the bike on top of him. At the hospital, doctors ultimately couldn’t save his leg, and it was amputated above the knee.

As a software engineer, Zac always had an interest in technology, so no one was surprised when he registered himself as a research subject with RIC’s Center for Bionic Medicine where he could help test a prosthetic leg that's controlled by his thoughts.

When Zac’s leg was amputated, he had a procedure called Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR), pioneered by RIC’s experts that “rewired” his nerves into new muscle. This procedure allows that neural information that once went to his right leg to be directed to a computerized “bionic” limb that detects his neural messages through surface electrodes on the skin. When Zac thinks, “Climb stairs," his neural messages travel to the new nerve sites on his though where 11 surface electrodes pick up the signals and tell the limb to synchronize the movements of its ankle and knee allowing him to climb stairs, kick a ball, and maneuver over obstacles as anyone would.

Zac demonstrated this state-of-the-art technology at RIC’s SkyRise Chicago event in 2012 when he climbed all 103 flights of stairs to help raise awareness and funds for RIC.