By Daniel J Vance
It wasn't that long ago when the idea of a person using bionic limbs to perform incredible physical feats was a flight of the imagination, much like the way we viewed Lee Majors in the 1970s television series "The Six Million Dollar Man."
Next March, 34-year-old Tennessean Scott Rogers will begin hiking the 2,170-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine on a bionic leg.
"I've wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail since I was a little boy," he told me. "Then I grew up and had children and responsibilities and no time. This idea of hiking the trail started out as the fulfillment of a childhood dream."
Rogers in 1998 accidentally shot his left leg while hunting, and following complications four years later doctors had to amputate. Medicare then approved Rogers request for a $50,000 "C-Leg," or Computer Leg.
"My six kids are responsible for my getting the leg," Rogers said. "They prayed about [Medicare approving] it. It's every amputee's dream."
The C-Leg is an artificial knee and shin made by Otto Bock Health Care, a German company. It is a durable "wearable computer" containing microprocessors that receive data 50 times a second from sensors. The microprocessors use the data to control sophisticated hydraulics that help the knee stand and swing. Users can even climb stairs, and one successfully made it down 70 stories on 9-11. Rogers can comfortably sit cross-legged on the floor.
Otto Bock made Rogers' dream a reality by developing a solar-powered charger to recharge his leg battery on the trail. "Initially I didn't think about the recharging problem," he said. "But I certainly can't be using a 2,000-mile-long extension cord. I'm the only person in the world with this special solar charger." Without his solar charger Rogers couldn't hike two days, and to finish he will need to hike seven months.
Now is the time to fulfill his childhood dream: he has only two quarters remaining to finish a degree in aviation maintenance, and after that he will likely be employed full-time as an aviation mechanic.
"I don't view myself as handicapped or disabled," Rogers said. "Yet I've had hundreds of emails from disabled people. They are thanking me for being a role model, inspiration, and motivator."
As for his leg, he says it can't replace what God naturally gave him, but it comes "pretty close."