"WATERBURY, Conn. -- A Naugatuck man is among those to get the world’s first bionic hand.

Robert Lingl received the hand at the Waterbury office of the national company that helped develop the technology.

“I got into an altercation with another vehicle and ended up rolling the truck on the highway and got my hand caught between the roof and road,” Lingl said.

He said he remembers that night in 1990 well. He said it’s the night he lost the lower part of his left arm.

He admitted he had been driving drunk, but said that after years of therapy and Alcoholics Anonymous, he was ready to reclaim his life.

But he said he needed a hand, figuratively and literally. That’s where Hanger Prosthetics came in.

Hanger developed the iLimb, a bionic hand that allows full range of motion in all five fingers as opposed to the old-technology prosthetics.

“These were only just dummy fingers,” said Jeffrey Murray, of Hanger Prosthetics. “You had no motion in them. With the new technology, you can fully close in on an object. Every finger has motion.”

The way it works, Lingl said, is that if he wants to pick up a baseball, his brain will send a signal to his wrist, which will send an electrical signal to the electrodes in the hand and allow him to pick it up with his left hand.

“It’s a whole new way of life,” he said. “My boys, they're going to be getting into the age of getting into sports and stuff, and dad will be able to do stuff.”

For example, he said, he’ll be able to fish with them and cast a line.

“They're already calling me Robot Dad and stuff,” he said.

But Lingl said he almost didn’t get the life-changing hand. He said Blue Cross/Blue Shield refused three times to pay for the iLimb. But his persistence paid off, he said. He said he appealed each time and finally won.

Lingl said he hopes his persistence will inspire others.

For now, Lingl said he’s getting used to using two hands again.

“You need to set the goal that you want and then persistently stay at it,” he said.

Stumble ThisFav This With TechnoratiAdd To Del.icio.usDigg ThisAdd To RedditAdd To FacebookAdd To Yahoo