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'I'm like RoboCop'

UNBEATABLE: Ms Aishah lost all her limbs following a severe bacterial infection in 2012, but she is getting ready to return to training.


    Feb 04, 2014

    'I'm like RoboCop'

    Former national shooter with multiple amputations gets new lease of life with bionic arms

    BEING able to pick up food with a fork is an action so simple that it is often taken for granted.

    But being able to do that again means the world to Ms Aishah Samad.

    With her newly fitted prosthetic arms, eating on her own is one of the basic daily actions that the 41-year-old is learning to master again.

    "It's so satisfying to be able to eat on my own again. Picking up food with a fork was just one of the many things I couldn't do for about a year," she said.

    All of Ms Aishah's limbs were amputated following a severe bacterial infection in 2012 and she has since been on the road to recovery.

    This year, the former national shooter's scope is fixated on a bigger target - returning to training in her favourite sport by the middle of this month and winning medals at the next Paralympics and SEA Games.

    "I miss the smell of the gunpowder and I can't wait to start shooting training again," she said last week.

    "Hopefully, I'll be able to represent Singapore at the next Paralympics or SEA Games," said Ms Aishah, who won a bronze in the 2003 SEA Games.

    While she received her prosthetic legs soon after her operation, she had to spend a year raising about $110,000 for her prosthetic arms.

    In addition, she had to fly to the Scottish city of Edinburgh in September to get them fitted.


    She said: "I was there for about two weeks. For 12 days, I was at the Touch Bionics Centre from 9am till 5pm for testing, measurement, and training with the bionic arms.

    "Using wires, they connected the nerve endings on my arms to the bionic arms. I had to learn how to wear and operate them.

    "By twitching my arms, the bionic arms sense the nerves and execute the movements."

    She wasted no time learning and adapting to the 32 grip patterns, including pinching, pointing, and giving a firm handshake, which she demonstrated warmly on this reporter.

    Each series of movements can also be programmed and activated remotely via Bluetooth with an iPhone app.

    "It wasn't difficult adjusting (to the bionic arms) as the therapists in Scotland taught me well," she said.

    "The only problem I have back in Singapore is when I perspire and my bionic arms start slipping out. It's a bit tedious because I have to remove them and wipe them dry before wearing them again."

    Ms Aishah said that her therapists tried to dissuade her from taking part in her favourite sport again.

    "They said it was not recommended as my bionic arms could be damaged. But if I don't, it'll defeat the purpose of me getting them in the first place," she said.

    She has even created a grip pattern, for grasping a rifle and pulling the trigger, which she has been practising on a toy gun.

    "I'm like RoboCop," she said with a wide grin.

    She added that German arms manufacturer Walther has agreed to sponsor a personalised rifle, and she is waiting for a permit to ship the weapon here.

    "I've got my schedule planned. I'll train on weekends, which leaves my weekdays free for my motivational talks and religious classes," the mother of two boys said excitedly.

    She hopes to return to shooting once her right bionic arm, which has a malfunctioning thumb, is repaired.


    Meanwhile, Ms Aishah will focus on mastering her bionic arms and not leaving a mess when she eats. "I have yet to get used to eating with a fork and a spoon," she said.

    That, and to pick up her cat, Kisses, which scrambled away when she tried to hug it with her prosthetic arms.

    "I hope to fulfil my promise to the people who helped me, especially my family, friends and the shooting committee, who stood by me and made this possible," she said.