Writer’s Workshop: We Have The Technology…

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Remember the TV show The Six Million Dollar Man? It was about an astronaut, Steve Austin (played by Lee Majors), who’s in a terrible accident that causes him to lose an eye, an arm, and a leg, so this team of scientists, under the direction of Oscar Goldman (played by Richard Anderson, one of my all-time favorite character actors), decide to replace that which Steve lost with bionics, technology that mimics actual living bodies. During the introduction of the show, we hear Oscar say “We can rebuild him. We have the technology.”

One of this week’s prompts is “If you could invent one thing to make your life easier, what would it be?” That’s simple: a bionic right arm and hand.

My stroke affected the right side of my body. When I woke up in the hospital, I couldn’t even tell that I had a right side of my body. It’s come back for the most part: there’s a pins-and-needles feeling in my leg, arm and the right side of my face, but my leg has come back nicely (a couple of new knees wouid be nice) and I can cope with the numbness in my face, but my arm hasn’t been as lucky. I can, and do, use it, but it tends to have a mind of its own, and while I can hold things with my right hand, I really can’t use it for much, because the fine muscle movements never came back. That has prevented me from using my right hand to write, to hold a guitar pick, to pick things up (say a coin or a piece of paper), to drive (cars are set up for a right-handed driver), and to hold anything that requires delicate handling. I’ve tried bringing it back to life, but it refuses to cooperate. Bionic technology like Steve Austin had would allow me to do all those things, and more.

Which begs the question: why don’t we have the technology?

To a certain extent, we do: we have robotics, as seen below.

And they have done some experiments with bionics, with varying degrees of success. It’s a difficult process, as you might expect, and not just something you can whip up in the basement over the weekend. More importantly, and maybe the biggest hangup: insurance probably won’t cover it, if and when it does become available. I could get into an entire sociopolitical diatribe at this point, but we don’t do that here at The Sound of One Hand Typing…

28 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: We Have The Technology…

  1. Present day life has become nothing but a sociopolitical diatribe and most of us dance in and around the issues involved.

    Way too many medical situations have become puppets, dancing on strings held by insurers. I see that far too often with the cancer patients at my job, women losing their hair from chemotherapy. Most insurers will not provide coverage for a “wig” but will for a “cranial prosthesis”. Same thing, different description. Frustrating for all involved given insurance coverage has become a game, of sorts, dictated by both words and an insurance company employee, with no true medical background, sitting at a desk making decisions for those in dire need.

    Stay safe, John.


    1. The health insurers aren’t the only ones at fault. Medical care in general has gotten so expensive in large part because malpractice insurance is so high. I could get into why that is, but I try to keep things on the light side here…


  2. I read recently about some nano-technology experiments and the tiny nano-bots could locate isolate a virus (I think they were testing it on a SARs virus) and it worked. Not up to human level experiments or anything, but nano-technology in the future could hold promise for restoration and repair in the human body.


    1. I think nanotechnology is definitely the wave of the future if it ever moves out of the “experimental” stage. Some of the technology has been around for years but no one can afford it…


  3. If a machine could be in place to stop pain, I would be all for it. When my dad had his brain tumour removed(cancer), he was paralyzed on the left side of his body. I was trained by the nurse the exercises to do to help my dad. I knew he was dying but I was invigorated by my dad’s strength to get better. He had the the operation in July and by Christmas he was walking with a three pronged cane. It was painful and difficult but he did it. I think all that you have done is courageous even though you don’t think so. It takes a lot to do what you are doing and rise up from the negative feelings one has when we can’t do what we want to do. Hurray for you!


    1. Thanks. When I was in the hospital, the parish sent someone nearly every day with Communion and just to find out how I was. On Sundays, it was Sister Lucy, a young Sister from either Africa or Haiti (I forget which). One Sunday I was feeling down and like I wasn’t getting anywhere, and she reminded me that just a few weeks earlier I couldn’t even walk. I forget to do that sometimes…


  4. Right now, I would like a bionic foot and ankle. My dog dragged me into a ditch, and I broke my ankle in three places. Not to bore anyone with all the details, but my first surgery didn’t work (not the surgeon’s fault), and I had another surgery with an ankle specialist. I haven’t walked for 7 months. The dr. says I can, but the pain is still too bad.

    Okay, I know that was way too much info. I haven’t been around in a while, so I have too many words in my head.


    1. I was wondering what had happened to you. I’m sorry to hear about your ankle. Surgery on things like that can be really tricky sometimes. Have you had any physical therapy?


  5. I’m glad most of the use has come back to your leg! My right hand is my dominant, so I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to lose most use of it. To be honest, I am surprised that we don’t have bionic technology to this degree already. Can’t say I’m surprised that insurance probably wouldn’t cover it, though – I know from experience that most insurance plans do not cover the cost of hearing aids, and you’d think they would.



    1. It’s almost like we need a second form of insurance that covers the really expensive stuff and things like durable medical equipment. I’ve had Medicare for close to six years now, and it’s amazing the things they will cover and the things that they won’t.


  6. Hi John – I learnt a lot when my mother had her strokes … and so appreciate where you’re at. TED talks are good … particularly one by Jill Bolte Taylor – who was a brain expert when she had her strokes in her late 30s … it’s interesting. Always amazes me which areas of our body each stroke affects. My mother’s was left-sided.

    Things have improved so much in recent years … but our brain is just a stunning instrument. Also it amazes me how things improve over time … it can still learn … but obviously time takes its toll. I’m pleased things are as they are and not worse.

    Take care and enjoy life as you can … all the best – Hilary


    1. I think I read her book, as a matter of fact. She apparently wrote it while she was having the stroke, or at least all the preliminary work.

      The brain is pretty amazing. Even when it’s broken (by a stroke, for example) it does an incredible job keeping everything working without you having to make it.


  7. Very interesting thoughts there. I assume physio doesn’t help with hand, it must be so frustrating.
    Do you remember the Bionic Woman, with Lindsey Wagner? I liked both shows back in the day. With the, then, cool slow motion and sound effects!
    I think we could all benefit from bionic robotics. 💜


    1. They gave me exercises to do that just made it worse, I think, but they told me that, while I might get some use from it, it wouldn’t be the same.

      The Bionic Woman wasn’t quite as serious as The Six Million Dollar Man, which made it fun to watch. Wonder Woman was on around the same time. That was another good one…


  8. Oh, man, we need to swap places. I can’t drive, for exactly the same reason. But I was affected on the other side, and of course our cars drive on the other side.


  9. That’s the trouble with that kind of technology, it is not usually available to the ‘little’ people. I wish it could be available to you, John. You are an impressive writer now, I cannot imagine what a powerhouse you would be post bionics.


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