Six years ago on August 24, 2014, Army Captain Carey DuVal was living a nightmare. He was then an infantry lieutenant conducting a patrol consisting of several Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles — MRAPs. The vehicles were sweeping roads in their assigned area in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, looking for IEDs.
Then a Toyota pickup truck filled with explosives crashed into the side of his vehicle. The force of the explosion flipped the 15-ton MRAP on its side, blowing the door off. All five of the soldiers inside the vehicle were wounded, with DuVal the most seriously wounded of all.
He was quickly airlifted to Bagram airbase. He was then transported to Germany and finally to Walter Reed Army Medical Center about 10 miles from Washington D.C. DuVal had suffered a compound fracture of his right femur, breaks to his right elbow and upper and lower arm. The upper half of his palm and fingers were also amputated in the blast.
But rather than dwell on his injuries, DuVal dedicated himself to his therapy. He made it a goal that with a prosthetic limb, he’d return to the infantry, complete Ranger school, and eventually Special Forces training. He was an inspiration to his fellow soldiers but also to his own father. When DuVal was born, 30 years ago, his father was in the 101st Airborne Division, the unit that his son would join.
“When I see the attitude, I see my son,” said his father Carey to the Loveland Reporter-Herald back in 2014. Carey is now a long-time history teacher at Thompson Valley High School in Loveland, Colorado.
“I’ve got a 24-year-old son who is a combat veteran and a Purple Heart recipient, I couldn’t be prouder… It doesn’t take a man to get blown up. It does take a man to: one, say I’m lucky; two, say I’m not going to sit here; three, say, I’ve got my whole life ahead of me, and I’m going to take advantage of it.”
Coincidentally, the younger DuVal, who was raised in Colorado and graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder, had a mentor in the ROTC program, Lieutenant-Colonel David Rozelle. Rozelle had become the first amputee since the Civil War to return to the same battlefield. He had lost a limb in Iraq and returned to combat there.
But DuVal had no luck with the prosthetics at the time. None of them allowed him the opportunity to train the way he wanted. But all of that changed when he found a company called Biodesigns.
Biodesigns has been working on a design with BrainRobotics’ new myoelectric prosthetic hand with select prosthesis wearers, including Captain DuVal. It has been a life-altering experience for him.
In a story on ABC 7, Duval said, “The second I got a sports prosthetic from them, it was a game-changer. I went from having an extremely atrophied right arm to actually getting volume and mass back. My shoulder starting building back up.”
This new prosthetic hand, which uses an advanced BMI (brain/machine interface) technology to deliver more capability, usability, and affordability to the prosthetic industry, has allowed him to return to weightlifting, CrossFit, and yoga.
Duval eventually became the first amputee with a prosthetic to complete Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS). This may open the door for many others in the future.
Randall Alley, the CEO and Chief Prosthetist of Biodesigns told ABC 7, “Ultimately, that’s our goal is you get on with your life, you don’t even think about what you’re wearing, it’s part of you.”
Currently, the prosthetic hand is in the process of being updated as the company is testing an eight-channel system that will allow users to better interface with the prosthetic hand. It is currently waiting for FDA approval.
Here’s the video of the story, courtesy of ABC 7 from Los Angeles: