By Julia LeDouxApril 23, 2009
FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- Army Lt. Col. Greg Gadson enjoyed a stroll Thursday on the grounds of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
While that may not sound newsworthy, for Gadson and his team of caregivers it certainly was.
Gadson, 43, of Fort Belvoir, is an Army officer whose legs were amputated above the knees and the first person in the world to receive the completed version of the second generation of the Ossur Power Knee prosthetics device.
"The biggest difference is just how smoothly they operate, obviously the appearance," he said. "These knees are lot lighter, they're quieter and they have a lot longer battery life, so that makes them logistically a lot easier for a bilateral to manage."
According to developers of the power knee, ground contact sensors allow users to control and manage their walking without thinking about it and the device provides maximum support in any given angle of flexion as soon as contact with the ground is made, while allowing for a natural and easy gait.
"These legs really mimic how you walk," Gadson continued. "This is much more natural. I can already see myself doing things that I would normally not do, like going shopping and browsing instead of just going in to get something."
Gadson is a 21-year Army veteran and West Point graduate who was a linebacker on the academy's football team.
"I still like to be an active person," he said. "This was necessary to keep my life active."
An avid football fan, Gadson's story inspired the New York Giants, who had him on the sidelines as a co-captain during their Super Bowl win in 2008.
The married father of two teenagers was serving with the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery in Iraq when his convoy was hit by a roadside bomb on May 7, 2007.
Within days, his left leg was amputated. His right leg followed later.
"You know intellectually your legs aren't going to come back, so its emotional acceptance. I've just had tremendous support from my family and friends," he said.
Gadson was selected as the first patient candidate for the power knee because of his drive and conviction to help push prosthetic technology to a new level of functional excellence, explained Mike Corcoran, the certified prosthetist who has worked with Gadson throughout his rehabilitation at Walter Reed.
"It's radically different from any prosthetic available today," he said.
The first power knee appeared in 2006. The second generation is smaller, sleeker, quieter, lighter and is expected to become widely used by both unilateral and dual amputees, said said Dr. (Lt. Col.) Paul F. Pasquina, chief, Integrated Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation at Walter Reed and the National Naval Medical Center.
"We hope that this technology will translate to all persons with disabilities across the globe," he said.
Gadson was initially fitted with the power knees on April 10.
"It's sort of like driving a school bus and then someone puts you in a sports car," Gadson explained. "You still know how to drive, but it's quite a different feeling."
The power knee will be provided to military hospitals this year and will become available to the general population in 2010.
"I just hope this is a path for people to really expand their lives," Gadson said.