'Life is starting to get back to normal. . . I can ride my motorbike again': Afghanistan hero's robotic arm is wired up to his brain in pioneering surgery
Bionic arm was wired to soldier's nervous system during a six hour operation in ViennaAble to ride his motorbike and drive a car once again
12:13 GMT, 27 August 2012
Britain's first bionic veteran has a new brain-controlled robotic arm that is transforming his life.
Andrew Garthwaite, 25, had his right arm blown clean off by a rocket-propelled grenade during a firefight with the Taliban in Afghanistan in September 2010.
In January he had the state-of-the-art limb wired to his nervous system during a six-hour operation in Vienna, Austria.
Andrew Garthwaite, 25, became Britain's first bionic veteran after having a state-of-the-art limb wired to his nervous system
Andrew flew to Birmingham to have shrapnel removed from his body
Now he is getting to grips with his new body part and is able to ride his motorcycle and drive a car again.
Gathwaite, who lives with his new wife Kailey, also 25, in South
Shields, Tyneside, said: 'It's been incredible. I thought I might never
be the same.
'But my life is
starting to get back to normal – I'm on my motorbike and I'm back in a
car. I can do things that I never thought I would have been able to do.
small things that are easier now – like opening a jar or holding
cutlery. These are the things I wasn't able to do before and now I'm
'I feel so much better and I'm quite happy with my disability. I'm proud of what I've achieved and what I've done.'
Garthwaite's arm was torn off in the attack on September 5 2010 during
which he was sprayed with shrapnel and suffered damage to his eye and
Andrew Garthwaite had his right arm blown clean off by a rocket-propelled grenade during a firefight with the Taliban
The former soldier is hoping that one day he could have feeling in his bionic arm
Reliving the moment, he said: 'We were patrolling through the night and as the morning came a big firefight broke out. A few rounds were exchanged and then it broke down for a while.
'I went to get some breakfast but then more rounds started coming through. I realised I had hit someone so I went to get some binoculars and as I was doing that an RPG hit my arm.
'It blew me back and the comrade behind me was killed in the explosion. I thought I was going to die. I was getting lights flashing through my mind and the lads had to keep on slapping me and keeping me awake.
'After the initial panic though, I was happy for them to take pictures of my arm. They tried to put a tourniquet on but it wouldn't stay on and they had to stop the blood leaking from my arm.'
Mr Garthwaite spent a day at Camp Bastion after he was airlifted from the scene of the fighting. He was eventually taken to Birmingham where he underwent surgery on his chest to remove shrapnel.
Happily married: Andrew in his military attire with his wife Kailey on their wedding day
He said: 'I thought I would get a new hand of a prosthetic arm.
'But in Vienna they did surgery on the nerves and it's changing my life. In the future they are talking about sensitivity so one day you could actually feel the arm.'
Mr Garthwaite, who was a corporal with the Queen's Royal Lancers when he was injured, was previously fitted with a prosthetic limb, which he controlled by flexing his pectoral and back muscles.
But during the pioneering treatment in January, surgeons dissected his right shoulder to redirect nerve endings that previously controlled his arm and hand.
After isolating the nerves, they re-attached them to his chest muscle.
Brain signals are picked up by electrodes which trigger motors meaning his arm is controlled completely by his mind.
Mr Garthwaite still has a long road to recovery – experts predict it could take up to 18 months before he fully masters his new arm.
He added: “I'm still on the basics stage. I know I'm only going to get better.'