The first time Claudia Mitchell peeled a banana one-handed, she cried.
It was several months after she lost her left arm at the shoulder in a motorcycle accident. She used her feet to hold the banana and peeled it with her right hand. She felt like a monkey.
"It was not a good day," Mitchell, 26, recalled this week. "Although I accomplished the mission, emotionally it was something to be reckoned with."
Now, Mitchell can peel a banana in a less simian posture. All she has to do is place her prosthetic left arm next to the banana and think about grabbing it. The mechanical hand closes around the fruit and she's ready to peel.
Mitchell, who lives in Ellicott City, is the fourth person -- and first woman -- to receive a "bionic" arm, which allows her to control parts of the device by her thoughts alone. The device, designed by physicians and engineers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, works by detecting the movements of a chest muscle that has been rewired to the stumps of nerves that once went to her now-missing limb.
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