Amputee Climbs A Chicago Tower With A Mind-Controlled Bionic Leg
Zac Vawter, who lost his leg in 2009, will climb 103 flights of stairs with a neural-controlled prosthetic limb.
Software engineer Zac Vawter, who lost his leg as the result of a motorcycle accident three years ago, will climb 103 flights of stairs at Chicago’s Willis Tower on November 4th using a bionic leg. This historic climb is part of SkyRise Chicago, an event that raises funds for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC)’s world-class clinical care and innovative research. For the world’s tallest indoor stair climb event, Vawter will use a mind-controlled prosthetic limb, which is driven by his own thoughts.
When his leg was amputated, Vawter received the Targeted Muscle Reinnervation procedure pioneered by the RIC’s Center for Bionic Medicine. This allows amputees to have more natural control of prosthetic devices. He then became part of RIC’s unique research trial and travels to Chicago every few months to test the one-of-a-kind bionic leg. It interacts with him so when he pushes on the device to stand up, it reads his intentions and pushes back on him to propel him up. Vawter said:
One of the biggest differences for me is being able to take stairs step-over-step like everyone else. With my standard prosthesis, I have to take every step with my good foot first and sort of lift or drag the prosthetic leg up. With the bionic leg, it’s simple, I take stairs like I used to, and can even take two at a time.