A Knoxville man who lost his arm in 1979 is a few weeks away from getting a new one. Tommy Jones’ insurance initially rejected the new limb.
Driving big construction equipment, like a bulldozer or graders, not only takes skill, but strength. Imagine steering one of those big pieces of equipment with one arm. That’s what Jones has been doing for decades.
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Last month when his insurance company finally approved his request for a new high tech arm, Jones was quick to get the process started.
Jones lost his right arm in a farming accident 39 years ago. At Victory Orthotics and Prosthetics, certified prosthetist Jennie Rhodes is excited for her patient. She says Jones has enough of his upper arm left ot control the high tech arm planned for him.
Once the arm is made and in place, Jones will need therapy to learn to use it, but that’s fine with him. He’s been using his left arm to do everything at work for the last 35 years, but as a heavy equipment operator, his left arm is wearing out. He tore a tendon last year and was laid up for two months.
His insurance company in February denied his request for a high tech arm that was tested at Victory Prosthetics in January. He says that arm would make him whole again.
“It’s hard. I can’t… hold my grand babies,” he said. “Great grandchildren, because I’m afraid I’ll drop them because at times my arm gives out.”
WATE 6 On Your Side wrote to Jones’s insurance company in April and explained how his use of a high tech experimental arm and hand at Victory Prosthetics was successful. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee responded saying they have approved it.
The prosthesis is weeks away and two important muscles will control tne new arm.
“To open and control the hand itself, he’ll actually be using some of the pectoralis muscles right here where this little mark is made, and then back here on the back, his super scapular muscle. That is what he’ll be using to close the hand and this pectoralis muscle is what he’ll be using to close the hand,” said Rhodes.
A few weeks ago, Rhodes wrapped plaster around Jones in preparation for a cast. Since a prosthesis can’t be picked off a shelf, Rhodes and her assistant captured the shape of Jones’s torso and his residual limb in order to make a prosthesis that will be comfortable for him. The entire process took about 40 minutes, which was not a problem for Jones since he’s waited nearly 40 years for a new arm.
“I’m ready,” he said. “I asked [Rhodes] the other night, can we start now?”
It will take a few weeks before the new arms arrives, then a few more weeks of adjustment and therapy before Jones is whole again.
While he waits for his new arm, Jones continues to work. He’s never been on disability. He says once he receives his new prosthesis and completes therapy, he plans to work for many more years and to hold his grand babies.