A SOUTH Tyneside soldier is training his brain to control a pioneering bionic arm.
Corporal Andrew Garthwaite, 26, suffered horrific injuries when he took a direct hit from a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), while serving with The Queen’s Royal Lancers in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, in September 2010.
The grenade blew his right arm off and killed a colleague, with fellow soldiers risking their lives to save Cpl Garthwaite, who is originally from Jarrow and now living in South Shields.
Cpl Garthwaite later became the first person in the UK and only the fifth in the world to be fitted with a special prosthesis, controlled by brain power.
The borough soldier underwent a six-hour operation in Austria early last year, in a procedure called Targeted Muscle Reinnervation (TMR).
Surgeons at the Medical University of Vienna took nerve endings from his shoulder and rewired these into his chest muscles.
This gave Cpl Garthwaite the sensation of a hand growing in his chest.
Speaking this week, he explained how he has had to learn to use the bionic limb, with electrodes sending signals into the device.
He said: “Because obviously I haven’t had a thumb or a finger for the last three years, then all of a sudden to start feeling stuff is a total weird feeling, so you have got to train your brain to move this hand.”
But the prosthesis is “very natural,” with few people realising it is a bionic arm.
Cpl Garthwaite, who took part in this year’s Great North Run, added: “There is no point looking back, because you can never turn back time.
“I am still very lucky to be here and I am very fortunate to be here and with this new life I have got, hopefully I can be very successful in it.”