Paralysed Havant paratrooper can feed himself after 17 years thanks to a new robotic arm
A FORMER paratrooper, who was paralysed in an accident, has told how he can feed himself for the first time in 17 years after being given a robotic arm.
Military veteran Jon Noble is only the second person in the UK to own a ‘JACO’ assistive robotic arm, which is mounted on a motorised wheelchair.
The 38-year-old, from Havant was badly injured in an horrific car crash in 2003 which left him as a tetraplegic and unable to use his arms or legs.
Six military charities united in their bid to fund the purchase of the hi-tech robo arm, which costs about £50,000 and isn’t available on the NHS.
‘I cannot wait to hand my dad a pint for the first time and socialise with friends who I have shied away from since leaving service,’ said John. ‘I’m so happy and privileged to get this technology and for the military charities to help me out with funding.’
With his sole but limited control of his daily life being through a chin-operated joystick on his electric wheelchair, Jon was left feeling like a ‘talking mouth with no purpose’, feeling so bad that he even avoided seeing friends.
However, the JACO arm is already giving him a new independent lease of life.
Jon, who served for four years in the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, completing two tours of Northern Ireland and one in Iraq, said: ‘When I was first injured all I would ask myself at night was "can I just have one arm? Just one arm back please,” and 17 years later, this has answered my prayers. It’s amazing.
‘I gave up all control over my life 17 years ago. The JACO arm will mean I have more choice over my own life and going to help me reengage in life and interact. I can start to see things opening up again for me now.’
The new robotic arm was supplied and installed by Rahana Life, who are experts in technologies that enable people to have limited or no use of their arms to regain arm function.
The device can be controlled through his wheelchair and has motors which mimic a human shoulder, elbow, wrist, and gripping fingers.
Jon’s wife and main carer, Glynnis, who he met in 2007 and married last year on Zoom, discovered the JACO arm on Christmas Day through YouTube.
She added: ‘From the moment I saw the arm, I couldn’t believe it. This is life-changing. Often Jon just sits and stares at stuff hoping that telepathically it will just jump up. Nothing happens in his life without somebody else doing it. He has zero autonomy in his own life.
‘There are a thousand things that this arm is going to allow him to do; simple things like scratch his own itch.’
Jon added: ‘When I first got control of the arm for a trial, I didn’t want to give it back. For the first time, I was opening doors, which is huge for me due to safety, picking things up – and dropping them, but that comes with practice. I even took my first selfie.
‘I don’t even know all the possible ways it is going to improve my life yet.’