July 31st, 2020

Private Jackson Schroeder was home on leave when an accident resulted in him losing four fingers. While this devastating injury could have been the end to his early career in the Army, Schroeder has new opportunities at his disposal thanks to an introduction to Dr. Glenn Gaston and Dr. Bryan Loeffler during an appointment at the OrthoCarolina Reconstructive Center for Lost Limbs.

Lieutenant Colonel John Reaume was the doctor to make the connection between Schroeder and OrthoCarolina earlier this year. Through conversations with his colleagues, Dr. Reaume found out about a surgery that could help Schroeder regain use of his amputated fingers. That surgery is called the Starfish Procedure. It was developed by Drs. Gaston and Loeffler of the OrthoCarolina Hand Center in partnership with OrthoCarolina Research Institute.

“I just thought it was one of the most amazing things I’d ever seen in terms of medical development and advancement,” Schroeder told Eye on Readiness.

How does The Starfish Procedure help?

Through Targeted Muscle Reinnervation, partial hand amputees can have the opportunity to be fitted for a myoelectric prosthetic and once again, have the ability to control the movement of individual fingers. Just a few years ago, partial hand amputees had limited access to prosthetic options. The Starfish Procedure paved the way for those patients to have access to devices that offer maximal functionality.

Before the Starfish Procedure, muscles that run robotics prosthesis are too deep within the hand. “This surgery transfers the muscles closer to the surface of the skin so the surface electrodes can detect muscle contraction and control the robotic fingers,” Gaston explains.

“We can set it up so each individual muscle for each of the fingers, even if you’ve lost part of the hand,” Loeffler says as he gestures, showing how the device moves.

‘Something good is going to happen in my life’

When asked about the impact this medical advancement could have, Dr. Reaume offers, “I think this procedure can offer hope to soldiers who have had traumatic injuries to their extremities.”

From Schroeder’s perspective, the loss of his fingers was followed by constant divine intervention.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Schroeder said. “I met Dr. Reaume for a reason. He happened to hear about this procedure right as I was meeting him. So, when I came to him, the knowledge of the Starfish Procedure and these prosthetics was pretty new to him. For me to come directly into his care after learning about this is definitely a sign from God that something good is going to happen in my life.”

An honor to serve through surgical innovation

During this first meeting of an active-duty soldier and the team behind the Starfish Procedure, it was an honor for Gaston and Loeffler to be able to lend their expertise to help a member of the U.S. armed forces.

“We have a tremendous amount of respect for the work that they’re doing and the service they’re providing for our country, ” Dr. Loeffler said. “We’re just really honored to be able to participate in their care and offer them something that’s really never been offered before to give them the best restoration of their function as possible.”

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