Bionic Animals

“Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology.” –opening of the Six Million Dollar Man,  1974-9178, ABC television

Today many of us sport what were once the stuff of cyborgs. Prosthetics, derived from the Greek word prósthesis, meaning addition or attachment, have provided many people with the ability to function normally and lead fulfilling lives despite facing any number of devastating injuries and physical challenges. So many soldiers our government sent to Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere have suffered devastating injuries, injuries that years ago would leave them immobilized for the remainder of their life. Thankfully, new medical technologies have greatly improved the function and sometimes comfort of a variety of prostheses, and so many of those who have been injured in our ongoing wars are able to regain some level of mobility. This, of course, addresses only a small portion of the injuries to our troop’s bodies and psyches, but it is a start.

And, those of us whose body parts are wearing out are also making use of prosthetics, My good friend, Doc, and a few other people I know have prosthetic knees, and just today I spoke with a colleague who has a prosthetic shoulder.

Although my first cyborg encounter was in Terminator (1985) closely followed by Donna Haraway’s 1985 Cyborg Manifesto, I’ve become a cyborg through spine and foot surgery. But that’s true of so many of us today because, as Amber Case said in a 2010 TED talk, “we’re all cyborgs now.”

Fortunately, it’s not just human animals who have benefited from this medical technology. Over the last few years I’ve read about number of dogs and cats and tortoises, and even a dolphin being given an opportunity to thrive despite abuse and terrible injuries.

-2I first read about Naki’o last year. He was just a puppy when he was found frozen to the floor of a foreclosed home; his mother was dead, and Naki’o was suffering from a devastating case of frostbite.

Thankfully, good Samaritans rescued him and people came together to help pay for the extensive surgery he needed to survive. His feet had to be amputated, but he’s on the move with his amazing prosthetics.

Then there’s Tzvika, a female tortoise, who now walks with the aid of attached wheels. Her surgery was done at the Wildlife Hospital in the Ramat Gan Safari near Tel Aviv.

(Photo by Nir Elias/Reuters)

(Photo by Nir Elias/Reuters)

(Photo by Reuters/Handout)

(Photo by Reuters/Handout)

Tzvika was run over by a lawn mower and suffered severe damage to her shell, and a spinal injury that affected her ability to use her rear limbs. The wheels, attached by veterinarians at the safari, elevate her to keep her  shell from being worn down and enable her to walk.

Oscar had his hind legs severed by a combine harvester. This beautiful and friendly cat can walk again after being fitted with prosthetic limbs.

And here’s what could be the world’s largest prosthesis. Motala, a 48-year-old

(Photo by Phichaiyong Mayerku/Reuters)

(Photo by Phichaiyong Mayerku/Reuters)

female elephant at the Elephant Hospital in Lampang province, north of Bangkok, now walks with a prosthetic leg. Her front left leg was maimed after she stepped on a landmine at the Myanmar-Thai border 10 years ago.

Of course the cost of such surgeries prevent many people from being able to restore their beloved pet’s mobility. But thanks to crowdsourcing and the tremendous generosity of veterinarians and pets lovers all over the world, many more animals are getting around with new and often improved prosthetics.

Indeed, we do have the technology, and we’re using it in wonderful ways for ourselves and our other animal friends.

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