For Aaron Nedd, The Sky’s the Limit
If you are ever near Aaron Nedd’s neighborhood in Fort Wayne, Indiana and you see a small helicopter hovering over the tree tops, you’ll know that he has a remote control in his hand and a smile on his face.
On a beautiful spring day in 2010, Aaron was riding his brand new Yamaha R6 motorcycle on his way home from work, covered from head to toe in protective gear including jeans, boots and a helmet. Although he doesn’t remember too many details, Aaron remembers that a construction company was working near the road and a truck pulled out of a blind driveway as he was coming over a hill. Aaron’s bike clipped the back corner of the truck, ejecting him from his seat and he landed in a ditch filled with rocks. Aaron spent up to two weeks in the ICU at Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana with a significant injury to his brachial plexus (a network of nerve fibers), leaving his arm flaccid and non-functional.
“Essentially, my left arm was paralyzed”, said Aaron. “I was sent to a nerve specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, three months after my accident where they took nerves out of both my calves and my forearm in an attempt to relocate them from my arm to my spine”.
Aaron was told that nerves can take over a year to grow; however, two years and five surgeries later, they were not seeing the results they were hoping for.
“I am right-hand dominate, so I made the decision to amputate my left arm”, said Aaron. “For me, it was like trimming a dead branch”.
Aaron made the decision to amputate his left arm above the elbow in 2012 at Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana. At the time, Aaron had been dating his girlfriend, Amy, for about 3 years. They have since married and Aaron says that this experience has only made them stronger.
Having attended Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne, Indiana on a full scholarship, Aaron returned to work at General Dynamics C4 Systems in Fort Wayne as a systems engineer where he troubleshoots software sent over by various software companies across the country. Although Aaron was able to adapt as well as he could in his position using only one arm, there were some obvious challenges that he faced which made him wonder if a prosthesis would be beneficial.
Aaron visited SRT Prosthetic’s office where he met with Mike Schroeder, Senior Lab Supervisor, Sam Santa-Rita, CEO and Prosthetist, and Brooke O’Steen, OTR who collectively make up SRT’s upper extremity team, and spoke with them on what options were out there for an above-elbow amputee. Aaron had done a lot of research leading up to this point, and was well aware of the over-use symptoms of his sound arm. Aaron was eventually fit with a myoelectric prosthesis with the Utah arm, which included an electric elbow. With Aaron’s engineering expertise and technologically-minded personality, he immediately became very intrigued with the functionality of the device and became very involved in the fitting process, learning the mechanics of his prosthesis both inside and out.
“It’s nice to have a sense of normality again without my right arm being over-worked”, says Aaron.
Obviously, Aaron’s talents and passions are not constricted to his work environment. Over the holidays in 2012, Aaron was playing with his niece who received a toy helicopter as a gift.
“After playing with it for five minutes, I was hooked”, Aaron said with an uncontrollable grin appearing on his face. “I went to a local hobby shop in town and slowly, but surely, started buying more and more advanced, fully programmable, helicopters. There are some models that reach up to 6 feet long and weigh between 30-40 lbs, but I’m happy with the medium sized models. It’s like a 15 year-old kid’s dream toy. Over the winter, I purchased a used T-Rex 450 Pro, rebuilding the 600-piece model from scratch. This is the real deal; operating just like a real helicopter in every way. It may take years to learn, but time is on my side”.
“This experience was difficult and frustrating, but totally worth it”, stated Aaron. “Some people give up hope. You have to learn to adapt to the world; don’t wait for it to adapt to you. With the help of my prosthesis, I’m doing the same things with one arm that I did with two and my life is just as good as it was”.