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Media News Science Technology

Martina Caironi, Paralympians and prosthetics

martinacaironi

Last weekend I had the pleasure of talking to the Italian paralympian Martina Caironi. For those of you who might not know her, she won a Gold Medal in London in the 100 mtr T42 category in a new World Record time, Gold in the World Championships in the long jump and again in the 100 mtrs, and just last month took the World Record over 200 mtrs. This is her in the photo above, she is the fastest para-athletic woman on Earth.

I have long had an interest in prosthetics and the borderline between human and machine. Readers might remember the review of the film Fixed that I wrote last year, and some may even remember my first post here about elective amputation in favour of prosthetics.

So as you might imagine I had a lot to ask. Regarding where the human body ends and the prosthetic begins, Martina told me that the question is very much down to your own point of view. She said that she knows where her prosthesis is without looking, so it seems very much an extension of her body. She can stand on one leg. You would not even realize she was wearing it if you saw her walk across the street.

I wonder whether it actually becomes part of your body though, but I am not sure that this is the case. She explained that you have to learn how to use it, how much you can push without causing injury, and a great deal is down to the quality of the prosthesis. It definitely seems to be an instrument for her.

We also talked about parity between para and non para athletes. She said that in the UK there is parity, and the races have prizes. This is not however the case in all countries, and she gave me some examples where the race organizers “don’t even pay your hotel bill”. This was a debate that really took off in the UK after the London Olympics and Paraolympics. It was noted that gold medal winners in the Olympics go on to make a lot of money through sponsorship, but that paralympians do not always have the same opportunities.

If you search the Internet you find many examples of countries that offer the same prizes to both sets of athletes, but you also find articles that explain that paralympians are paid less because the governing bodies find it difficult to raise the same amount of sponsorship. I am pleased to say that Martina makes a living from her athletics today, and rightly so given her dedication.

If you would like to watch Martina winning her gold medal here it is.

I should tell you that I have known Martina for some years, she was one of my students when I was an English teacher in Italy. She lost the bottom half of one leg in a scooter accident, and for a while was on crutches as the wound healed and the prosthetic was prepared. The fitting process took some time, and was uncomfortable when it was not quite right, so we are dealing with a precise instrument that has to be well fitted. While running she uses a blade, if you are interested in learning how they work take a look here.

Most of Martina’s interviews that we find on the web are in Italian, which doesn’t say much for her charlatan English teacher, but one of the things that she maintains is that sport gives people who have lost some mobility the chance to push their limits. Instead of accepting limitations, it pushes the athlete into going ever further, acting as a positive force for well-being. It has given her the possibility of experiencing things that many of us might dream of, with the fortune of having access to such technology through a fine center of excellence here in Italy.

Readers might also want to take a look at the Robohand website. They use 3D printers to make prosthetics, and recently unveiled a project that aims to commercialize a prosthetic leg. I think this type of technology could bring vast improvements to the prosthetics world.

I also urge you to read this article by Erin Strait that is a free download. It describes the development of artificial legs in developing countries, the materials used and the costs. Some solutions are ingenious and not costly. See below for an artificial leg made from used bike parts, they cost less than a dollar each to make.

bike foot

Categories
Charity News

Blog Action Day 2012

Today is Blog Action Day! In 2010 I blogged about water. In 2011 I blogged about food. This year I am going to blog about the Power of We.

So what is Blog Action Day? For a quick recap, here is an extract of my article from last year:

Every year (for the past four years) on the 15th of October, there is a global Blog Action Day, where bloggers around the world write about one common problem in the world today, in order to try to raise awareness of a pressing issue.

Today is the 6th Blog Action Day in internet history, and tens of thousands of bloggers around the world will today be blogging about the Power of We.

The Power of We came about as a topic after bloggers were asked to vote on what topic they thought Blog Action Day 2012 should cover. Topics such as community, equality, anti-corruption and freedom (as suggested by yours truly) were all very popular, so the Blog Action Day team decided to make the theme the Power of We, a topic that encompassed community, equality, anti-corruption and freedom.

What To Blog About

Blog Action Day - The Power of WeThis year I am really at a loss as to what to blog about. Not because I have no ideas, but because the topic is so broad that I could write 10 posts on all different areas encompassed by the Power of We.

Here are just some of the ideas I had

  • Focusing more on the freedom side of things, I could have discussed the power of people when we all act together and the influence we can have. The Arab Spring is a fantastic example of this, when people act together they can crush oppression. Libya is probably the best example of how this happened, people worked together and eventually managed to bring down the Gaddafi dictatorship. Yes lives were lost and change was not without suffering, and that is wrong, however now Libyan people are in the process of forming a democratic state. The country now has an elected General National Congress, and is moving forward.
  • If I had gone down the equality route I could have talked about how equal rights are becoming recognised as important across the globe. A great example I could have talked about would be the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The London 2012 Games were the first ever to see every competing nation have both men and women competing, a massive step forwards in terms of gender equality. Also the global recognition the Paralympic Games received was a fantastic achievement. For the first time, the Paralympic Games had big sponsorship, like the Olympic Games has, suggesting that discrimination against disabled people has decreased, and people are now more open an accepting. Someone is no less a person just because they have a disability, and it would appear that more people are starting to understand this.
  • I could have discussed how every single person on this planet has the ability to make a difference to the world we live in. Maybe not everyone is capable of revolutionising the world, however we all have the ability to influence and affect others, and it is what we choose to do with that influence and how we decide to interact with other people that makes us who we are. Everyone has the chance to be kind to someone else at some point, some people more than others. If we were all to seize every opportunity imagine what a better place the world would be.

There are so many different ideas and topics that I considered writing about, however in the end I decided to focus on an area much close to my heart.

The Power of We means community, what we can achieve if we work together. Co-operation for the greater good.

The Power of We is everything Blog Action Day stands for, relatively small and powerless bloggers from across the globe, uniting on one day, all posting about the same topic, to try and change something by raising awareness. In the past the day has been used to raise awareness about the environment, hunger, poverty and other critical issues. Blog Action Day has led people to donate to charity and has created a better understanding among many of pressing global issues.

I have no doubt that Blog Action Day has improved the lives of people around the world. The project has managed to get some fantastic associates such as Oxfam and ActionAid, because of the great work it does.

Blog Action Day's logoSo, what about my post?

I am going to talk about the community we have here, the one you are a part of. The Technology Bloggers community. Okay we aren’t changing the world on a global scale, however we play our part.

The key word is community. We are all here working together in order to build a better blog, from which we can all prosper. Fantastic writers from all across the world contribute to our blog, giving readers a diverse range of material to read.

Why do we read? To enrich our lives, to learn new things and become knowledgeable on a topic. Reading makes us smarter, it opens up our mind to new ideas and concepts.

In return for their work, our writers get exposure to our hundreds of loyal subscribers and our thousands of monthly of readers.

Ultimately there only needs to be two people for the system to work. The writer writes the content, the reader reads and comments. The reader learns something and/or is able to take a new perspective on something, whilst the writer receives valuable feedback on their work. Just two people, and yet so powerful when working together.

Man kind wouldn’t be where we are today without co-operative work. When we work together as a team we can achieve more. It says it in the name: Together Everyone Achieves More.

Co-operation has built society as we know it. Every day, billions of people across the world go to work and co-operate with each other, to enhance and improve our world.

Ultimately I think this year I may have gone a little too broad in my choice of topic. I had so many ideas, and wanted to write about everything, and I think I have sort of tried to. I am not sure how well it has worked, this certainly isn’t your conventional post.

What are your thoughts, and will you be blogging about the Power of We?