Most people would have resigned themselves to their fate, but not Christian Kandlbauer. After losing both his arms in an accident five years ago, the 22-year-old Austrian had managed to regain a high degree of mobile independence, thanks to a mind-controlled robotic limb built specially for him by Otto Bock of Healthcare Products.
With the new arm, he had managed to get a driver’s licence in October last year, and was able to drive himself to work every day in a specially adapted Subaru Impreza outfitted by German company Paravan.
Sadly, Kandlbauer died last Friday from injuries sustained after his car veered off the road and crashed into a tree, according to reports. The cause of the crash was unknown, nor was there any suggestion whether the prosthetic arm played any part in it.
The car had been prepared to meet the Kandlbauer’s specific needs. An easy to operate power-assisted steering – which had a fail-safe mechanism to ensure he had full steering control in case there was a power steering failure – as well as a contact button to operate up to nine safety-related functions (horn, indicators, headlamps, wipers, hazard lights, among them) was part of the dedicated build.
Other special mods included a four-point seatbelt, a special emergency brake, an electrically-operated sun visor as well as specific adaptation of various control elements (like a push button to operate the power windows with the elbow). The car was approved by local transportation authorities.
Kandlbauer lost both arms when he was 17 after being electrocuted when climbing up an utility pole. Bock said that Kandlbauer was the first person outside the US to wear the innovative left-sided limb, which recognised signals from his brain and moved accordingly. Four of his nerves were redirected to his left chest muscles to help operated the arm, while a normal prosthetic piece was used as his right arm.