State-Of-The-Art Prosthesis Helps Boy Do What He Loves

Being born a left arm amputee hasn’t stopped a Campbell River youth from living an active life. And recently, Garrett Warkentin, 12, was outfitted with a myoelectric arm, with help from The War Amps Child Amputee (CHAMP) Program. The prosthesis can sense muscle impulses, meaning he can open and close the hand by simply flexing the muscles in his residual limb.

The new arm is a little bit itchy, warm and fuzzy, he says over the phone, and thanks to the battery that powers it, a little heavy too. It’s just another tool to help the active pre-teen pursue the myriad activities he’s interested in.

Warkentin also has prostheses that attach to his bike, hold a pick while he plays guitar, and hold his karate accessories while he practices. Warkentin’s newest prosthesis is a common choice for upper-limb different kids, says mom, Julia. A limb difference means the limb may look different than most people’s, possibly due to a developmental issue in the womb, or because of a disease or accident.

“They’re so useful for holding things and easy to open and close,” she says of myoelectric arms. Warkentin’s had a few electric arms over the years, but this is the first one that uses electrodes on his upper forearm to trigger movement.

“The other ones were using muscles down at the end of his limb, so this one, he felt a lot more control,” she says. Now, being a little older, he wanted a little more control and has the patience to practise with it. And he’s stronger. If using the prosthesis were a video game, he says, it would be like playing on normal mode. But Warkentin also does so much without any prostheses, Julia says. Especially in the summer when it gets hot.

“He’s a pretty confident kid and willing to try just about anything,” she says.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Warkentin hasn’t been out participating in his usual summer activities with War Amps. In the past, he’s attended Champ Camp, where Champs and their parents learn about the latest and greatest in artificial limbs, as well as dealing with the teasing and bullying some child amputees face. He’s also been a participant on the group’s float in a few parades on the Lower Mainland.

“If talking was a sport,” he says with a laugh “I’d be a master.” He and his mom have been involved with sharing resources and information about War Amps in the community. In 2016, he was even recognized by Mayor Andy Adams for his efforts.

“Council is inspired by your determination to lead a full, active life and applauds your work as a safety ambassador,” Adams said when he presented Warkentin with a special certificate in recognition of his involvement with War Amps.

The War Amps program began more than 100 years ago to help First World War amputee veterans coming home. Over the years, it’s expanded its programs to support all amputees, including kids like Warkentin.

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