MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There are milestones in a person’s life that are never forgotten.
For 13-year-old Kate Jorgenson, one of those came a month ago. And with it came a promise that more milestones are on the way.
“She’s not only the youngest person in the world that’s had this done, but also the only one that I’m aware of that has had six electrode sites successfully put on her arm,” Pat Prigge of Advanced Arm Dynamics in Maple Grove said.
Those six electrodes have changed a 13-year-old’s life.
After a farm accident in June 2013 near Westbrook, Kate had to have her left arm amputated. It didn’t stop her from doing the things she loves, but it did make them harder.
The specialists at Advanced Arm Dynamics knew they could give Jorgenson something more.
“When she thinks about her hand opening and closing, the hand is going to open and close. When she thinks about her elbow moving up and down, the elbow is going to move up and down,” said Prigge.
Jorgenson is the youngest person ever to undergo what’s called targeted muscle reinnervation surgery, or TMR. It takes the nerves that were cut during the amputation and rewires them into muscles. The nerves work with the electrodes, allowing Jorgenson’s prosthetic arm to move its elbow, wrist and hand — all by simple, intuitive thought. But while Jorgenson makes this look easy, it was anything but.
“At the beginning, when I first got my prosthetic, I would have to do the same motion so I would have to open my hand with my right hand, mimic it with my left hand,” said Jorgenson.
But not anymore. On this day she used both hands to pot a plant. Physical therapist Jennifer Peterson said Jorgenson’s ability to grasp, hold, move and release improves significantly with each visit.
“She’s gaining control. She won’t have to think so much going forward. It will just become second nature to her,” said Peterson.
“This is her arm now. She can call it her own,” said Jorgenson’s mom, Nikki.
For Jorgenson’s parents, TMR has given their daughter her independence back. They never dreamed this complex technology would make life so simple.
“I thought it would be a filler. I never dreamed she would do all the things she can do with it, and I think there’s more down the road even,” said Nikki.
“It’s been a long journey and it’s great to see Kate getting back to herself,” said Jorgenson’s dad, Jim.
A bright future is within Jorgenson’s grasp.
“I think that’s really cool, and I’d love to have that someday where I can move the fingers individually,” said Jorgenson.
The specialists at Advanced Arm Dynamics said Jorgenson is one of only about 30 people in the world who have had this procedure done.
And they do believe the technology is coming that will allow Jorgenson and others to move the fingers of their prosthetics.