Last time I noticed my friend James was at the town bar near our old high school. He had been working on the roof for years, and Lank was not a rail-thin teenager with hippie hair. I just returned from a job with the Peace Corps in Turkmenistan. We were reminded of the summer after our New Year, when we were inseparable কাজ the adventure in the jungle, the debate over Batman vs. Crow’s merits, watching every movie in my dad’s bootlegged VHS collection. I had no idea what I wanted to do next. On the other hand, his future was determined: he had recently joined Navy And the boot camp was starting the following week. He wanted to work in Afghanistan.
James Rafeto trained as a special-operations medic for the next three years. He got married and was soon assigned to southern Afghanistan. About four months into his first visit, just after he had treated a local woman’s sick daughter, he set foot on an improvised explosive device – an intelligent contraption triggered by a balsa-wooden pressure plate, which disappeared from the bomb detectors. She remembers looking down at herself, unable to fix herself, screaming “No!”
His platoon comrades asked him what to do. James tells them to tour his limbs, inject him with morphine, and tell his wife, Emily, how much he loves her. He woke up a week later in a Maryland hospital, losing both legs, his left hand and three fingers of his right hand.
I was then on the other side of the country, working to do a PhD Neuroscience. We have texted several times. He revealed how difficult it was for him to receive help after years of hard work.
James’ injury prompted me to attend a symposium on the emerging field Brain-computer interfaceA device designed to read a person’s nerve activity and use it to operate a robotic prosthetic, speech synthesizer or computer cursor. At one point, a member of Brown University’s neuroscience lab showed one Video Involves the name of a paralyzed, non-verbal patient Kathy Hutchinson. The researchers fitted him with a system called BrainGate, which included a small electrode array placed in the motor cortex, a plug on the head, a shoe-shaped signal amplifier, and a computer-running software that could decode the patient’s neural. Signal
In the video, Hutchinson tries to pick up a straw bottle of coffee using a robotic arm. After a few moments of intense concentration, stiffening his face like a fist, he grabbed the bottle. Pausing, he brings it to his mouth and takes a sip from the straw. Her face is soft, then a joyful smile breaks. Radiation of achievement in his eyes. The researchers applauded.
I wanted to thank them. Neuroscience is a field that is starving of concrete therapeutics. Some neurotransmitters work much better than placebo and when they do, researchers don’t understand why. Even Tylenol is a mystery. New strategies and methods can have interesting effects without a clear mechanism; The protocol is worked by trial and error. So the promise to clearly improve the lives of people with motor disorders and physical disabilities was addictive. I imagined James playing Video games, Repairing around her home, unlimited in her career options, embracing her future children with both arms.