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Veteran Gets a Robotic Prosthetic Arm from Hines O&P

    James Ritchie, a 73-year-old veteran from North Judson, Indiana, recently received a new robotic limb from Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital’s Prosthetic and Orthotic Lab (O&P) after losing the lower half of his left arm 51 years ago in an industrial accident.

     Veteran James Ritchie gets a robotic prosthetic arm from Hines O and P.

    Hines O&P is one of VA’s largest prosthetics services specializing in treating a variety of conditions such as traumatic, orthopedic, vascular, neurologic, geriatric, and general systemic conditions. While it may not have been the first choice for many veterans, the suburban Chicago medical center has become a trusted provider of prosthetic services for veterans.

    When Erik Lindholm started working at Hines almost seven years ago, only two upper limb fittings would take place at a time, he said in an interview with the Daily Herald. At that time, roughly 50% of veterans preferred seeing private clinics instead of Hines. However, today, 85-90% of veterans come to Hines for their orthotic and prosthetic needs.

    Joel Heuring, who is the prosthetics chief, credits this drastic change to his 12-person team that comprises certified prosthetists, orthotists, pedorthists, three residents, and a health technician. According to him, the team's diverse experiences and specialties enable them to handle almost anything orthotically or prosthetically.

    After several unsuccessful attempts in the private sector, Ritchie's quest for a prosthetic arm that can compensate for some of the function he lost five decades earlier led him to Hines VA. A prosthetic arm was designed by Lea Richer, a certified prosthetics orthotist, to restore some of Ritchie's lost function.

    Ritchie is receiving up to four hours of daily training under Richer's guidance to learn how to use his new limb effectively. He hopes that his experience will benefit others.

    In an interview with the Daily Herald, Ritchie revealed that although he initially suffered from depression, he now believes that his experience happened so he could help others and give them hope.

    One of the ways he accomplishes this is by providing food to people experiencing homelessness in Chicago. They often ask him about his prosthetic arm, which gives him the opportunity to not only remove stigmas about artificial limbs but also share his VA experience while serving others.